Activists have begun a week-long occupation outside Lewisham town hall in protest of the council’s alleged lack of progress on its ten-year plan to address climate change.

Campaigners pitched tents on the green opposite the council's Catford headquarters this morning (November 29), erecting a banner calling on Mayor Damien Egan to “tell the truth”.

They are urging the council take concrete action to implementing its climate emergency plan, agreed by the mayor and cabinet in March 2020, which set a goal of achieving carbon neutrality in the borough by 2030.

Zaria Greenhill, Catford resident and founder of Climate Action Lewisham, a local residents’ action group working to support and generate initiatives in the borough, said: “Whilst we recognise that funding and pandemic restrictions hamper work to reduce emissions, unfortunately the climate emergency will not wait.

News Shopper: A banner was erected outside the building (Climate Camp Lewisham)A banner was erected outside the building (Climate Camp Lewisham)

“The council needs to go through a whole-organisation reorientation to put climate higher up the priority list, and insist on challenging developers, protecting remaining trees and pushing forward active travel, using every tool available to put climate at the heart of council operations.

“Residents expect it, and without it, Lewisham risks slipping behind other boroughs in local authority engagement."

Lewisham was one of the first local authorities in London to declare a climate emergency in 2019, acknowledging the council's need to act on the causes and impacts of climate change.

The subsequent plan consisted of five pillars: leading by example, sustainable housing, decarbonised transport, greener, adaptive Lewisham and inspiring, learning and lobbying.

Activists claim insufficient steps have so far been taken to realise the 2030 goal, which will require additional resources. 

John Hamilton, local campaigner and Brockley resident, said: "Our concrete demand of the mayor is to increase the number of staff working on implementation of the plan.

"There are just three people and that is just not sufficient to make progress. 

"There needs to be a change of culture among those who have held the top posts in Lewisham Council for years and Damien Egan needs to wrest control from those who have become entrenched and show that he is serious about tackling climate change."

The council claims it has taken a number of steps to implement the emergency plan. 

It has launched a new community energy fund, offering up to £15,000 one-off grants to energy efficiency and carbon reduction projects, such as the installation of solar panels on community buildings.

The council also successfully bid for £2,983,428 under the government’s public sector decarbonisation scheme earlier this year to fund energy efficiency works in council buildings.

Cllr Patrick Codd, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: "Lewisham Council is taking bold and necessary actions to tackle the Climate Emergency and the borough of Lewisham has the fourth lowest carbon emissions in the country.

"To address this global emergency, we believe it is vitally important to take action, not indulge in publicity stunts and as a result we are recognised nationally for our approach.

"Just some of our important work since declaring a Climate Emergency in 2019 includes switching our electricity supply to 100% renewable energy, retrofitting council buildings and local schools, and securing millions of pounds in external funding to help tackle the Climate Emergency.

"We have also planted 12,000 trees and 700 new street trees. More about our many actions and achievements to date can be seen on the council’s website."

Have you got a story for us? You can contact us here.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to keep up with all the latest news.

Sign up to our newsletters to get updates sent straight to your inbox.