Extinction Rebellion Wandsworth launched a campaign earlier this month to hold Wandsworth Council to account for their alleged failure to address the climate emergency.
Members of the environmental group gathered outside the town hall to deliver a giant envelope full of demands as part of their ‘Wake up Wandsworth’ campaign.
Posters have been plastered across the doors of Wandsworth Council and billboards are up in East Putney and Clapham Junction.
Extinction Rebellion member and Putney resident Matt Palmer, 48, said: “With this small act of defiance, we declare that we are in open rebellion against Wandsworth Council.”
Fellow campaigner Pat Squires, 65 said: “I urge everyone to join us in holding Wandsworth Council’s feet to the fire of our burning planet.”
In 2019 Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia declared a climate emergency and pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030, and a zero-emission council by 2050.
Since then XR members have said they are increasingly frustrated by what they deem a lack of progress.
Ahead of the next election of the Wandsworth Council in May 2022, XR will assess whether the council has met its demands.
‘Wake up Wandsworth’ aims to tackle the council’s perceived inaction around air pollution, the felling of mature trees, food waste collection, and investment in green infrastructure.
XR Wandsworth’s letter to the council reads: “We could not have been more pleased when Wandsworth Council declared a climate emergency in July 2019.
“But we have been dismayed by the lack of progress towards meeting the targets set out in the action plan.”
It is estimated that air pollution in London causes around 9,500 premature deaths each year and disproportionately affects those in economically deprived areas.
Last year a coroner ruled that air pollution was the cause of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah’s death.
Ella’s case marked the first time that air pollution has been officially recognised on a death certificate.
A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council said: “The council is implementing a whole range of measures to help us achieve our ambitious target of becoming a carbon-neutral organisation by 2030.
“This includes action to green our vehicle fleet and our pension fund, plant thousands of new trees, explore food waste recycling, support the switch from petrol and diesel to electric vehicles and introduce energy efficiency measures in our housing blocks.”
At a recent council meeting, Govindia cited a number of the council’s achievements since 2019.
He mentioned the Green Homes Grant funding that the council has received, making them one of 57 local authorities nationally to receive the fund.
Govindia said: “As I am sure there are a few people who still won’t take my word for it, let me refer to another independent report conducted on local authorities and their response to climate change.
“This report by UCL evaluated councils on their administrative capacity to lower carbon emissions and placed Wandsworth third out of all councils evaluated, ahead of Oxford, Nottingham, Sutton, Islington, Brent, and Lambeth.”
Recently a Wandsworth Council spokesperson quoted Kevin Frea, an authoritative voice on climate change as saying: “Wandsworth for example is doing a lot.”
XR Wandsworth reached out to Frea to learn why he believed this to be the case.
He said: “‘Wandsworth Council made a good start with a Youth Climate Commission, switching to 100% renewable energy and committing to a Carbon Literacy Training programme.
“However, they have failed to understand the urgency of the climate and ecological emergencies, by setting a 2050 target, rather than a 2030 one for the whole borough, and failing to do what 126 councils have done.
“It will take far more than electric car charge points and encouraging gardening to increase biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions at the speed required.”
XR Wandsworth said a sustained campaign of non-violent direct action will follow.