Keeping London at the forefront of global business
working with and for the whole UK
Why London needs a Just Transition to Net Zero
13 November 2020
The Citizens UK Just Transition Campaign is working with London First and the think-tank IPPR to shape green policies for the next Mayor that will benefit all Londoners. Here, leaders from Citizens UK explore what community organising is, why it’s critical to climate action and how we can build a fairer, more sustainable city by co-creating solutions with local people.
When Martin Luther King, Jr, wrote about “the inescapable network of mutuality,” he was not engaging in highbrow philosophy from an ivory tower — he was writing about everyday life from a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King reminds us that our lives are deeply connected to people we’ve never met; this includes everyone from the workers who picked the oranges that went into the juice we had for breakfast, to the bus driver who took us to the office.
Likewise, community organising is about connecting these dots, and helping us to see how every thing is connected to everything — that the products we buy from businesses, the services we use without a second thought, and the big and small decisions that governments make everyday, all impact real people with names and stories.
As Citizens UK, we listen to thousands of people every year about how local and national decisions impact them. And we then work to hold decision-makers to account by helping those most impacted by these decisions tell their stories publicly. We also implement the practices and principles of community organising to make real and lasting changes in our communities, just like we did (and continue to do) with our Living Wage Campaign, which since 2001 has won over £1 billion in pay rises for low-paid, hourly workers.
As that campaign demonstrates, when civil society works together with business, we can make profound changes that tangibly improve individual people’s lives while also improving the health and well-being of entire communities. And that’s what we propose to do again by working with London First on our Just Transition climate campaign.
Citizens UK is the largest community organising alliance in the country — over 400 civil society institutions (schools, colleges, universities, faith groups and neighbourhood organisations) listening to our communities and working for what we call the Common Good. And one of the things our members are increasingly concerned about, especially in London, is the Climate Crisis, and the urgent need to become a carbon-neutral city to mitigate the negative impacts of increased flooding, air pollution and more severe weather.
This is why we’re in the midst of a London-wide listening campaign involving 400 leaders from 20 different community organisations. Through our listening, we have already heard stories about how our polluting energy, economic and transport systems directly impact our members; people like Noah, age 8, who lives in East London, has a lung condition and struggles with asthma. Because of the pollution on his street, Noah often stays awake all night, coughing, and is unable to go to school the next day as a result. When we spoke to Noah and his parents about this, Noah asked, “Is clean air too much to ask for?”
We don’t think it is.
We have also heard how the transition to a cleaner, carbon-neutral city must be just, and must benefit people in low-income neighbourhoods — people who are already suffering from low-paid work, poorly insulated homes, high energy bills, poor transport links and ill health from air pollution. We want people like Bel, who is in his early 20s, lives in Lambeth and is looking for work, to be — as Bel told us — “part of the workforce that rebuilds the UK”.
Employing people like Bel is the kind of Just Transition we need.
Making London a carbon-neutral city will impact people’s daily lives — from how they travel, to what they do for work — which is why we need to co-design solutions with communities. London’s green revolution will only be successful if we can give every person in our city the opportunity to participate in — and benefit from — this transformation.
We are calling on the Mayor to work with us and the local communities we represent to redesign our polluting transport, energy and economic systems, and, in so doing, directly improve the lives of those on the lowest incomes. London First have committed to our supporting statement below, and we are now asking you, London First’s members, to support our campaign and collaborate with us and the Mayor on this pressing challenge.
We are also in the process of using the stories and insights from our listening campaign to develop Just Transition policies, which we are creating in partnership with the public policy think-tank, IPPR. We’ll then put these policies to the candidates for Mayor of London at our Citizens UK Mayoral Assembly, which we’ll hold either digitally or in-person in Spring 2021. We will also ask the candidates, if elected, to commit to meet with us regularly.
We are so encouraged by London First’s support for the aims of the Just Transition campaign — that you share our desire for a fairer, greener city — and we believe in working together, we can make this bold vision a reality and improve the lives of all Londoners.
As Martin Luther King, Jr, said, “I do not think of political power as an end. Neither do I think of economic power as an end. They are ingredients in the objective that we seek in life. And I think that the end of that objective is a truly brotherly society, the creation of the beloved community.”
Just Transition supporting statement
We face major threats to the future of the planet. Today, we have it within our power to choose climate policies that will repair, restore, connect the people of our city and protect our health.
Our goal is to make London into the first Just Transition City in the UK. We need a rapid transition away from polluting fossil fuels for the health of our people. We want to make sure this transition is led by, and benefits first, lowest income neighbourhoods — those that have suffered the worst impacts from pollution and who are at highest risk from a changing climate. We want to enhance low income communities’ ability to meaningfully co-design long term green solutions.
We are seeking new partnerships between business, civil society — including the over 220 organisations that are members of London Citizens — and the Mayor of London. We are calling on the Mayor to work with us to redesign our economy, energy, housing, transport and health systems; to create jobs and concrete policy changes that make London a more equal, healthy place for all of us. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Our members include over 200 of the capital’s leading employers across a wide range of sectors, with a common commitment to our capital.