'We'll help stop global warming by recycling more' Tower Hamlets council promises

Mass protest at global warming that brought Whitechapel Road to a grinding halt in 2019

Mass protest at global warming that brought Whitechapel Road to a grinding halt in 2019 - Credit: Mike Brooke

A waste and recycling board is being set up by Tower Hamlets Council to help improve the East End’s bad pollution and poor record on global warming. 

The administration which has been accused of allowing developers to get rid of too many trees now aims to be a “zero carbon” local authority in the next four years. 

Angry Limehouse GP Jackie Applebee leads global warming protest rally in Whitechapel in 2019

Angry Limehouse GP Jackie Applebee leads global warming protest rally in Whitechapel in 2019 - Credit: Mike Brooke

A “climate emergency” strategy was passed at the council’s March 17 meeting which followed protests around the globe two years ago that included marches and a mass demonstration bringing Whitechapel Road to a standstill. 

“Climate emergency is one of the greatest crises facing the world,” environment cabinet member Asma Islam told the council meeting. 

"We emit the fourth-highest carbon levels in London, with 77 per cent of our people living in areas exceeding safe limits of air quality. Children's lung capacity is lower than the national average.” 


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The council became the first in London in 2019 to declare a climate emergency and  commit to be "carbon neutral" by 2025.   

Cllr Peter Golds... slams Labour for putting schools on main roads

Cllr Peter Golds... slams Labour for putting schools on main roads - Credit: Mike Brooke

But it didn’t always practice what it was preaching, Tory group leader Peter Golds told councillors. He slammed Labour’s planning decisions to build schools and housing on main roads where pollution was worst. 

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"Go and tell the children," he demanded. “Look where Woolmore Primary was built in Poplar or Bow Secondary which was Labour passing planning applications.” 

Improvements by the council include switching to renewable energy, reducing single use plastics, installing 159 more electric vehicle charging points this year, carbon reduction projects in schools, grants to businesses for energy efficiency and for residential heating schemes, more LED street lighting and planting 1,000 trees in the streets.  

It was a far cry from Tower Hamlets at the very bottom of the UK’s national recycling league table back in 2006, as recalled by Labour’s Abudul Ullah who said: “We had a terrible record of just 7pc and had to make incentives for households to do more.” 

The authority pulled itself up and launched recycling on a grand scale, but still suffers traffic pollution like the A12 Approach to Blackwall Tunnel.  

Cllr Andrew Wood... “We’ve planted lots of  trees, but have got rid of just as many.

Cllr Andrew Wood... “We’ve planted lots of trees, but have got rid of just as many. - Credit: Mike Brooke

Yet opposition Cllr Andrew Wood slammed the council for failing to protect trees that help reduce monoxides, like the  Limehouse Triangle wildlife space by the Regent’s Canal which was cleared for a block of flats. 

“We’ve planted lots of  trees,” Cllr Wood acknowledged. “But at the time time we’ve got rid of as many. Trees are being cut down on council land like the Limehouse Triangle or in Marsh Wall where the developer was given permission. We’re losing as many trees on the Isle of Dogs as those being planted.” 

People protest in Whitechapel over global warming... in the days before lockdown banned public gatherings

People protest in Whitechapel over global warming... in the days before lockdown banned public gatherings - Credit: Mike Brooke

Labour called for a return to the culture of "mend and make do" for household goods to help reduce global warming, getting "more stuff repaired and reused" like washing machines, TVs and fridges. Council members called for support for Right to Repair legislation going through parliament to get manufacturers to make goods last longer and making them “stick to last”. 

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