Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville (Lab & Co-op) declared a “climate emergency” at last night’s full council meeting.
Speaking in an aptly overheated council chamber, the borough leader referred to the unseasonal February weather and challenged the Conservative opposition to renounce any denial of the science of climate change.
The climate emergency is to be brought forward in a future council motion, though Cllr Harvey Odze (Con, Springfield), who the mayor accused in his statement of meeting the discussion with muted heckles of “fake news”, is unlikely to be one of its backers.
Mayor Glanville said: “We are always in need of a slight reminder, of which the unseasonal heatwaves and Hackney’s Extinction Rebellion protest did exactly that.
“We are without a doubt in a climate change emergency, and I declare that tonight as the Mayor.
“I very much look forward to continue taking action and bringing forward a motion that endorses that future before the council.”
Responding to Mayor Glanville’s challenge on his beliefs, Cllr Odze said: “The Mayor accused me of denying global warming. I defy him to find where I said global warming does not exist.
“What I said is that global warming is not manmade, but a natural phenomenon that has occurred since long before the Industrial Revolution. An ongoing thing that we can do nothing about.”
Cllr Odze’s statements were met with cries of “rubbish” from listening councillors.
Just under 100 per cent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organisations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position, according to research published by NASA.
The meeting also saw a challenge from activists from Divest Hackney on the council’s continued investment in fossil fuels.
The Town Hall committed to a 50 per cent decarbonisation of its investments by 2023, but still have millions invested in fossil fuel companies such as BP, Exxon, Rio Tinto and Shell, according to Divest.
The campaign group pressed the council during the meeting on when the final 50 per cent would be removed from its investments.
Divest Hackney said: “We welcome the Mayor declaring a climate emergency and are glad to see Hackney Council making concrete steps to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, increase energy efficiency and prioritise low-carbon development.
“However, Hackney Council must act in the best interests of its residents and not invest in organisations that pollute our local air and destroy the land and the water all around the world where our family and friends come from.
“We also need to see more serious and immediate action from local councils to prevent climate chaos.”
Cllr Robert Chapman (Lab, Homerton), chair of the council’s pensions committee, hinted in his responses that more divestment could be coming, saying: “Obviously, the situation is much more serious than it was when we took our original position and at this stage nothing is off the table.”
Cllr Chapman added that the council’s fiduciary duty to its pension fund outweighed strictly “political and moral” concerns.
The council’s investment strategy is up for review this year.