Environment chief defends Islington council’s record on tackling climate change

The man in charge of defending Islington’s environment has been accused of suspending efforts to combat climate change.

Environmental campaigners say the town hall has decided to ignore a target it adopted in 2009 to cut carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2020.

Cllr Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, was recently called on to reaffirm the commitment at a council meeting but failed to do so.

Vicki Snodgrass, of Islington Friends of the Earth (FOE), said: “Islington residents care about the environment, why doesn’t the council?”

On Sunday, Islington FOE and other environmental groups staged a demonstration in front of the town hall, calling on the council to stick to the CO2 target.

Cllr Smith says the council does plenty to further its green aims – but that its top priority is to help people and that comes first.

He said: “Islington has just been recognised as the best council in the country for doing work on fuel poverty. In the last two years, we have improved the lives of 21,000 people in tough times through a range of things like free boilers.

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“We are building a green energy power station – we are doing a fantastic job in tough times. But Islington has made a decision about priorities and we measure our success by helping people.

“If we were to focus on targets rather than people, we would be spending our money doing up the town hall rather than providing free boilers and home insulation – and we’re not going to do that.”

But Ms Snodgrass added: “Paul Smith says the council is now only measuring ‘how many people they help’, but that obviously doesn’t include helping those people who care about and want the council to improve Islington’s environment.”

Katarina Korytkova, Islington FOE coordinator, said: “We hoped that in difficult economic times the council would use their commitment to focus resources on reducing fuel bills, creating green jobs, sustainable travel, and controlling rising food prices.

“But instead the council has made a false choice between saving the economy and the environment.”