In July 2019, Merton Council declared a Climate Emergency and set an ambitious target to make the Borough carbon neutral by 2050 and to decarbonise their own buildings and services by 2030.
They subsequently established a Climate Emergency Working Group to develop a Climate Action Plan which was approved by Council on 18 November 2020. The Climate Change Delivery Plan for Year 3 (2023) reports on progress to date.
As Merton Council only have direct control over 2% of carbon emissions in the Borough they set up a Climate Action Group in January 2021 to develop community-led projects which reduce the Borough’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The Climate Action Group, which is very dependent on the work of volunteers, is divided into the following sub-groups:
- Green Economy
- Greening Merton
- Buildings and Energy
In addition a group dealing with Engagement and Funding overarches the 4 sub groups .
In July 2022 the Climate Change Group was set up to be a forum for organisations in the Borough with the intention that the Climate Action Group and sub-groups should be a focus for individual residents.
Members of the Wimbledon Society’s Planning & Environment Committee (PEC) have been involved from the start of the Climate Emergency initiative in helping develop Merton’s response. One or more PEC members attended each sub-group meeting and will continue to attend meetings of the Climate Change Group. In addition the PEC has met with the Climate Change Officers and the Cabinet Member currently responsible for this area, Natasha Irons. In between meetings we maintain communication with Council Members and Officers on a number of climate and sustainability related issues.
As commercial and residential buildings account for 81% of emissions in Merton, the work of the PEC in this area assumes considerable importance. The focus will initially be on the retrofit of existing (mainly residential) buildings; a huge undertaking since only ¼ of properties In Merton are EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rated A-C. All new buildings must be carbon-neutral from now on. We have been advised of plans to set up a “retro-fit hub”, initially online where residents can access information on retrofitting and associated matters. In order to get this up and running Merton recruited a Retrofit Community Officer and an internal Retrofit Officer.
To help achieve this the PEC is taking a threefold approach:
First, pushing for the Local Plan Policies to require a far higher sustainability and energy performance in new development.
And also, to change the nature of the Plan from being re-active (to proposals made by developers), to being pro-active on energy, on retrofitting, on carbon neutrality, on nature.
We pushed these proposals at the recent Examination into the draft new Borough Plan, but without much success. The Inspectors’ report is expected shortly and may require the Council to make changes.
Secondly, commenting on current planning applications, and pressing for tougher energy performance criteria, more realistic tree planting, better pedestrian and cycle facilities etc.
Thirdly, contributing to the emerging proposals around the retrofitting programme and to the proposal to revise planning guidance about installation of solar panels aimed at encouraging an uptake in installations.
In a welcome initiative the Council voted, in October 2022, to commit cabinet members and council officers to undertake carbon literacy training. Training aims to raise awareness of the causes, impacts and costs of climate change, while helping the participants to identify opportunities for reducing carbon emissions in their own areas of work in Merton and beyond.
When the training is complete, the individuals will receive an internationally recognised climate training accreditation and Merton should achieve the Bronze Carbon Literate Organisation Award.
Two new initiatives provide assistance for businesses in Merton to reduce their energy use and become more resource efficient:
The Wimbledon Business Climate Challenge– is a partnership between local Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) and the Mayor of London which provides extensive no-cost support to businesses to save on energy. Wimbledon BID is a named ‘Engagement Partner’, therefore businesses in and around Wimbledon can apply for support that saved participants of the 2021 scheme on average £8300 over 9 months.Information about the scheme here
The Net Zero Innovation Programme – is a joint project with University College London and The Wheel to make available grant funding to establish a pilot project in Morden investigating how small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can reduce waste and become more resource efficient. The project will also investigate opportunities for reducing the energy usage of local SMEs, given the cost-of-living crisis.
Merton are recruiting a number of officers to expand the Climate Change Team, including an officer to lead on use of electric vehicles and to develop cycling and walking strategies, two officers to lead on de-carbonisation of both Merton’s activities and their procured services and an officer to lead on on the low carbon economy – promoting green skills and businesses and a circular economy. These are all welcome initiatives and should lead to more measurable progress in the next few years.
The Merton Garden Streets initiative which is one of the Greening Merton Sub-group’s initiatives was launched in 2021, for more information see our news article here.
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More information and contact details for anyone wanting to get involved in any of these initiatives are on the Climate Emergency page of Merton’s website
To receive regular updates from the Merton Climate Action team, sign up for their email updates here.