Croydon & Sutton Hustings - 21st April 2021
On Wednesday 21st April, Croydon Climate Action hosted a hustings event for the London Assembly candidates from the Croydon & Sutton constituency. Claire Bonham (Lib Dems), Peter Underwood (Green Party), Neil Garratt (Conservatives) and Patsy Cummings (Labour) all answered questions submitted by the public.
The below summaries have been taken from Anna Orridge (@orridge_anna) who was kindly providing live Twitter summaries. They were as follows:
Claire Bonham: 'All of us have a part in tackling the climate emergency'. She points out that the pandemic year has shown that if there is a real will, real radical change is possible.
Peter Underwood: 'The climate emergency is the biggest challenge humanity is facing. We have a duty to future generations. We have to change the way we do things. We rarely get this kind of chance for a new start. The old normal was destroying our planet.' Claims that other parties often shove climate and environment to the side in favour of other priorities. 'We can't have climate justice without social justice. The Greens are the ones you can trust.'
Patsy Cummings: Her campaign is about values. 'It's time to act and to look at what's working and what's not working. So many people in our community are struggling on a day to day basis. We have to ensure the solutions to the climate crisis are linked to this. The majority want to see climate crisis addressed. Tories have shown an unwillingness to tackle climate change at the speed necessarily.'
Neil Garratt: Wants to talk about threats and opportunities. 'Most people in Croydon and Sutton are on board with tackling climate crisis.' Says there is a danger that the language of threat is so extreme, it makes people too scared to act. Optimistic about clean future. 'Carbon emissions have been cut in the UK. It's important to stress the progress that has been made. We need more carrots than sticks to create the clean energy future we need.'
1. “Me and my younger brother watch a lot of wildlife programmes and feel sad when we see trees being cut down or animals in trouble. Humans are doing so much damage to our planet. How can we stop them?”
Neil: 'Children often see these issues more clearly than adults. What we can do is think about ethical consumerism. We can choose products that are produced in an environmentally conscious way, which may have a real impact in other parts of the world.'
Claire: 'We need to think about what we consume and consume less. It doesn't matter about how much clever technology we have, we'll be left with the same problems. We need to take the lead. We have to make people understand why and give them easy ways to tackle it.'
Peter: 'We have to take responsibility. We can't blame other countries. We need to put our own house in order. Education is key. Too many have been raised to believe that nature is just a tool to be used. Attitudes have to change, in the way they did re: drink driving. We should set up a wildlife crime unit. In London, we can't afford to lose more wildlife.'
Patsy: 'The West should lead. We need to support poorer countries. We need to grow more locally, rather than transporting across the world. Pleased to see that young people really get it. We need to get involved and we need info. It's not about carrot and stick, it's about communities. Communities of colour are among those most affected by climate change. Recycling rates in Croydon have gone up, but they need to rise further. There is so much we can do together. The community needs to have a voice.'
2. The Beddington Incinerator burns waste that could instead be recycled, and Environment Agency figures suggest it produces more carbon dioxide per unit of electricity it generates than a coal power station. How would you ensure London’s incinerators operate in a way that keeps emissions and local pollution to a minimum?
Peter: 'We have to focus on cutting waste rather than incinerating. We need to tackle producers so we have the right to repair and we are able to make products last. The Green Party opposed the Beddington incinerator, and we need to close it down. Waste must be reduced.'
Patsy: 'Burning rubbish into the air is not the thing to do. Labour colleagues in Sutton were against the incinerator. It's not just local authorities. We should invest in renewable energy. Recycling should be at 100%. We need to do things better.'
Neil: Is a councillor in Sutton. Is sceptical about environmental claims about incineration. The difficulty is what we do. 'In 2014 the Lab party said they wouldn't go ahead with the incinerator, but they went back on that. It would be a difficult thing to get rid of. It is contentious whether it is as environmentally damaging as a coal power station.'
Claire: 'You have to make difficult decisions. Sutton Council, which made this decision, is LD.' Doesn't believe that either incineration or landfill are ideal. In other parts of London, LD policy is not to produce new incinerators. Doesn't know if we can get rid of it.
3. What measures would you support to reduce transport emissions in London?
Claire: 'Greening the bus routes. Disadvantaged communities are disproportionately affected by climate change and air pollution. It's got to be a package of different measures. Green public transport as much as possible.'
Neil: 'Greening bus fleets is something most of us agree on. An area that needs more exploring is micro-mobility - e-bikes and e-scooters. They need to be legalized and regularized. They have potential to replace cars for medium length journeys. There's a tendency to stress eliminating cars as a solution. Thinks this is problematic. We should think, instead, of ways of integrating cars.'
Peter: 'We have to reduce car transport. They produce toxic fumes, carbon etc. We have to enhance and transform public transport. TfL is the only transport system in a major city that is not subsidized because of Conservative decisions. Trams in Croydon have been a terrific success. We need to reduce need to travel. We should go for 15 minute city model, which ensures most infrastructure is available within easy distance. This enhances life and reduces emissions.'
Patsy: 'We need to make public transport better, cheaper and safer. We need to make sure we give people incentives and bring the power back down to the people. We need devolution. In my board, local people got to make money for the GLA. Safe spaces around our schools. It's wrong to make young people breathe in toxic fumes.' Makes reference to momentous achievements of Rosamund Kissi-Debrah in this area. 'The money is there, the government needs to make the changes.'
4. Do you support a “just transition” to net zero and if so, how would you ensure specific groups such as those on low incomes aren’t overburdened by the necessary changes?
Patsy: 'We can't make the poorest in society and communities of colour shoulder the financial burden of this huge transition. There's a whole raft of initiatives. All of us need to come together to put these policies in place. We should work together as parties.'
Peter: 'Yes, there should be no other transition than a just transition. The problem we have with the system is that it disadvantaged people who were already disadvantaged. The GND is based around getting good jobs for people. We did a lot of work with this on the Croydon Climate Crisis Commission.'
Neil: 'People who are less well off often have cars to get around. Road pricing and congestion charging leaves a situation where people who are less well off are priced off the roads. Damaging the economy and jobs also causes damage to people's lives. If money isn't being generated in the economy, green schemes cannot be funded properly.'
Claire: 'Citizens' assemblies and local communities need to be involved. It must be a national conversation. Very aware that some technologies will be out of reach for many people. There's a value in starting conversation at ground level. Education is important - the younger generations will be facing this.'
5. For London to reach net carbon zero, what do you think the main focus should be for a. the London Assembly and local government, b. businesses and c. households?
Neil: 'Many of our biggest successes have been in power generation. We need to look at heating for households. Is in favour of a carbon tax in the economy - this makes it easier to work out where carbon emissions are happening. GLA should focus on transport. GLA should incentivise businesses and get them to come up with solutions.'
Patsy: 'Let's support households to make the changes they need to make. Mothers shouldn't have to choose between heating and eating. We need to incentivize businesses so they don't use excess plastic packaging. The footprint this would eliminate is vast. If govt can do that it will make things better. Local communities always have the answer. We all need to work with the communities. It's got to be grassroots. We have to work together.'
Claire: 'From the GLA perspective, we can scrap the Silvertown Tunnel etc. We can try re-wildling, green roofs on all the buildings in London. We need to lead by example. Should City Hall be vegan one day a week? We can show it can be done. I think we need to get past the idea that Green businesses are second class citizens. They are the future and the way forward. It's a new tech, it's the new way of working.'
Peter: 'People need to be helped to take the right decisions, especially if they can't afford to make the necessary choices. Info needs to go out to businesses, and they need help with investment for technology and new practices. They require support. For GLA, the London Plan needs to have environment going all the way through it. So Silvertown Tunnel needs to be ditched.'
Neil Garratt: Need for optimism and carrots and sticks. 'We have committed to a green bus fleet by 2025. Need to think of micro-mobility in more detail. Difficult areas around domestic heating. Retrofitting is tricky. We need empowering human ingenuity.' Glad Shawn Bailey is committing 50% of budget to good green growth. Certain there will be new opportunities. Will be pushing in public and private to seize opportunities and bring people with us.
Claire Bonham: 'Green issues no longer sit at the edge, but at the heart of things. LDs are working to make communities more resilient. We have a unique opportunity to get this done. We are people who will be talking to the local community and listening to voters. We can represent views of people like yourselves. We need to have conversations both with people who want to keep roads open and those who want LTNs.'
Patsy Cummings: 'Put your trust in me on 6th of May and I will make sure that eco-friendly measures are put in place. Fossil fuels need to be out of everyone's thinking, but make sure that people are informed. It's not because they don't care, it's because they're so busy and overwhelmed with life. Tackling climate change needs to integrated with ways of making people's lives better and easier. We need safer streets for our children and get people out of cars. And we need incentives. There are lots of things the candidates agree on. We need leadership right now. Will work with other candidates. There are so many things we can do together. I'll be straight with you - it'll be a choice between me and the Conservative candidate.'
Peter Underwood: ' Everyone has put forward some interesting and positive ideas tonight. Politics should be about making things better, not just about fighting each other. But other parties have policies that will make it difficult to tackle the climate emergency. This is one of the reasons I'm in Green Party. You only have one vote for this Assembly. Will you choose a candidate who'll improve the climate situation or make it worse?'
Question from the Q&A
"Will you re-introduce Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) where they are supported?"
Claire: ' LTNs are great, but they have been badly implemented in some London boroughs. Can be very harmful to elderly people and emergency services. There needs to be careful consultation and sensitivity to the local situation.'
Peter: 'LTNs are one tool we can use, but they are not a complete solution. They need to be well-designed. Rosamund Kissi-Debrah has had very serious concerns about the impact of LTNs on low income communities. Consultation and public engagement needed.'
Patsy: 'LTNs need to be in place, but we must bring people with us. It's not the only solution for reducing emissions and pollution. Deprived areas are often the most affected. We need to reduce number of cars vastly. It's making sure there are the right incentives. We must make sure spaces around schools are healthier. We can do much more locally.'
Neil: 'The LTN acronym is new, but ideas about managing traffic is not new.' Is Conservative environment and transport spokesman in Sutton. Needs to be implemented slowly and with proper consultation. 'People object to feeling bullied and pushed.' Has problem with ANPR cameras that fines people. Feels like a government ambush on people who may simply be unaware. Signs can be hard to read.'
Thank you to all the candidates and attendees, and remember to vote on 6th May!