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Readers' Letters

Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: The climate - safeguarding trees, climate change and air quality

PUBLISHED: 08:30 15 June 2019

Our back garden and street trees are under threat from insurance companies repairing homes suffering subsidence. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD

Our back garden and street trees are under threat from insurance companies repairing homes suffering subsidence. Picture: NICOLA BAIRD

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Government hopes to plant a million more trees by 2022, writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

As trees help tackle the climate crisis, it's good news that 130,000 will be planted in urban England over the next two winters.

London already has 8.3 million trees; roughly one for every Londoner. Trees work hard. They store carbon, absorb noise, remove pollutants, reduce flood risk, offer summer shade, improve well-being, are beauties, provide pollination opportunities and delicious bounty (I've even made N4 street tree pear jam). These services are worth more than £6 billion.

But while one group cheers on tree planting, many trees are at risk of removal by insurance companies dealing with subsidence claims. Subsidence is the scourge of homeowners in Islington, particularly those in end of terraces. Chatting at a local dog show in Ambler Road it's clear that just two subsidence-suffering Victorian houses will only be fixed by their insurance companies if all nearby trees are cut down. Using just these two examples that would see an average removal of one council-owned street tree and four trees in neighbours' back gardens. If 26,000 houses with subsidence cracks generate a demand for five felled trees, then that's 130,000 trees for the chop. And if that happens by London will have less trees than it does now...

"The law needs to be looked at as trees often get the blame when there are an array of issues," says Paul Wood author of the fabulous London is a Forest (Quadrille, £12). "The real issues are around decreasing water in our soils due to climate change and improvements to water pipes (no longer ceramic, but blue plastic), and poor foundations of Victorian and Edwardian housing. You won't see subsidence occurring to modern buildings despite having large trees outside. Cash-strapped local authorities are often happy to cut down trees rather than face expensive legal fees."

We can't let subsidence claims - triggered by climate change - create even more challenges.

Help out thirsty street trees by pouring your washing up water into the tree pit during hot spells.

It was hard not to be moved by the D-Day anniversary events last week, reminding us of the bravery of ordinary people, the enormity of the logistics required, and the horrifying numbers and youth of those who died, writes Andrew Myer, Islington Green Party.

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The UK and its allies committed everything to combating the greatest global threat of their time and we are still grateful for their sacrifices 75 years later.

These days the greatest global threat may be very different but again it will hit the younger generations hardest and again it needs us to commit everything to addressing it.

A while ago, I went to a lecture at the Institution of Civil Engineers, where the speaker suggested the cost of dealing with climate change would be of the same order of magnitude as the cost of fighting a war but pointed out that during WWII the country didn't stop to discuss cost effectiveness or ask where the resources would come from: we knew we had to do it and just had to find the money.

The same is true for the climate emergency. The impact of not dealing with it is similarly too horrific.

Sadly, though, that lecture was 30 years ago! And still our government does little more than pay lip service to the scale of the climate challenge. If they'd started to take it seriously back then, the cost would have been spread over several decades and would have been a lot less painful. We know now that we've only got 10 years to deal with the problem or the effects will be catastrophic and irreversible.

We know we've got to do it. We just need to find the money and make the commitment.

Or in 75 years our own children and grandchildren may remember us with a lot less gratitude.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Islington environment executive, tweets: "It's disgraceful children suffer dangerous levels of air pollution because of failure of adults to act." [twitter.com/ClaudiaWebbe], writes Anita Frizzarin, Wedmore Gardens, Islington.

Does that failure to act by any chance include Islington Council adding extra car parking spaces rather than removing the ones already there - except for those for the disabled, emergencies and deliveries - and putting in cycle lanes instead (and attempting to throw me out of the town hall when I ask about the number of Islington's new car parking spaces)?

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