A 15-year-old has slammed Southwark Council for failing to do enough to tackle the climate emergency. 

Caoimhe Basketter from Southwark Extinction Rebellion said she was hopeful after speaking in a deputation in 2019 when the council declared a climate emergency.  

In another to Southwark’s cabinet on Tuesday (January 19) she said had since “lost almost all hope”.  

You can say there have been meetings and consultations, that there are plans being developed, but what you don’t seem to grasp is there is no reward for effort or showing that you tried

She said: “I had only just turned 14. 

“Now I’m nearly 16 and it feels like very little, if anything, has actually changed.  

“I remember hearing the way everyone was speaking and I was so hopeful – hopeful for the real change that I thought could come from that. 

“Over the last two years I have lost almost all that hope.  

“You declared a climate emergency, yet you treat it like a game of who looks the best.  

“A year ago, there were huge fires in Australia and there was a fair amount of uproar, as there should have been.  

“But just this summer there were terrible fires in America and many people here barely batted an eye.  

“Terrifying crises are already normal. My generation has grown up with this. I casually talk to my 11-year-old brother about the constant extinction of species and ever-rising sea levels.  

“And what’s worse is I don’t remember a time when that wasn’t normal.  

“Is this what you want for your children and grandchildren? For talk of the end of the world to be casual and matter-of-fact […] 

“You can say there have been meetings and consultations, that there are plans being developed, but what you don’t seem to grasp is there is no reward for effort or showing that you tried.  

“There are only catastrophic consequences if you fail.” 

See more: Campaigners camp out to stop Southwark felling oak trees

Caoimhe told the cabinet that 2030 is not an arbitrary date, but one based in scientific fact.  

“Which means that there is no second try if you run out of time because science doesn’t grant extensions. 

“Do you seriously believe that what you’ve done over the past two years puts you on track to meet that deadline, because we don’t,” she said.  

She said Southwark needs a climate strategy that dictates all other policies. 

“You can argue over what flowers to put in parklets, but what’s the point when you can’t see the wood for the burning trees?” Caoimhe said.  

She said the council needs to commit to clear and detailed plans that will make real change, as well as involving large numbers of people and experts to inform policies.    

“Over the past year we have faced the Covid-19 pandemic. What this has shown me is that people are willing to make huge sacrifices for the benefit of everyone.  

“But people will only make sacrifices to stop the climate emergency if from now on you tell the truth and ensure that it is fair for everyone,” Caoimhe said.  

She asked: “Can you commit now to putting the climate at the heart of all of Southwark’s decision-making, or are you going to continue as you have done over the past two years?” 

Councillor Johnson Situ, cabinet member for climate emergency, planning and transport praised the deputation and agreed to place the emergency at the “heart of everything we do”.  

He spoke of the council’s new announcement that all of the electricity in its offices and buildings is now powered by 100 per cent renewable energy.

See related: Southwark Council electricity 100% renewable powered

“We recently increased the charge that we put on new development that doesn’t reach our policy for carbon reduction. 

“We’ve increased our charge by 50 per cent to make sure that we’re actively encouraging new developments to respond to our policies.  

“We’ve committed to planting 10,000 new trees. But we know we need systemic change, so that means fundamentally looking at all of our policies,” Cllr Situ said.  

He told Caoimhe that an amendment to the new Southwark plan will focus on the climate emergency.  

“I’ve tasked the team to make sure we’re publishing that by the end of March to go out to consultation.  

“That amendment will specifically focus on how we’re going further on the climate emergency and the same with the movement plan as well,” he said.  

It emerged a climate advisory group is being created to inform policies.  

Cllr Situ said the council has started discussions with the educational department, and on how it can go further with schools.  

Plans to set up a specific youth participatory body are also in the works.  

Cllr Situ said: “[This would] ensure that the response to the climate emergency is not just dictated by the council or dictated by a specific generation, but also that young people are at the heart of that response as well.”