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Waltham Forest campaigners unite to demand action on climate change

CAMPAIGNERS AND TRADES UNIONISTS agreed to increase campaign activities in Waltham Forest in the run-up to the COP26 global climate change meeting in Glasgow in November. At a meeting in the London Borough on 9 September they vowed to support events being organised in London and elsewhere.

The meeting was called by Waltham Forest COP26 Coalition and supported by Waltham Forest Trades Council - to which London Freelance Branch is affiliated - and by local climate and pollution campaigners from Extinction Rebellion and Edmonton Incinerator Campaign.

Asad Rehman, Director of the charity War on Want and a member of the UK COP26 Coalition, spoke passionately of how climate change is here already: "We've seen killer fires, floods, famines all over the world, we've got a million people on the brink of starvation in Madagascar, we've seen devastation in literally every continent in the world."

He said that a historic failure to act fully to prevent increasing global temperatures and to meet previously agreed temperature increase limits, combined with a failure to properly address our consumption of fossil fuels - which drive climate change - have led to the UN stating recently it is now "code red for humanity".

Asad said everyone now recognises the global meeting of governments at Glasgow's COP26 is our last chance to commit to changes that will truly limit increasing global temperatures. And to ensure those agreements are just and fair for everyone around the globe he said: "This is the moment for us to platform our demands - ensuring an economy that is sustainable and that works for all people."

Unfortunately, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, was unable to attend the event - but following the latest report from the UN (IPCC ) he had previously said: "Firefighters here and across the world are on the front line of the climate crisis. We see the effects of climate change every time we fight wildfires and save people from floods, and we will fight as hard as we can for politicians to wake up and take notice. As a humanitarian service we cannot stand by and watch this happen.

"This report confirms that human activity is responsible for climate change and we are running out of time to save ourselves. But this requires fundamental political, social and economic change across the world, and those in power have, so far, failed in the face of this immense challenge.

"The Waltham Forest COP26 coalition meeting is an important step to ensuring we fight for climate justice within our own communities, to build pressure at the national and international levels."

Mick Holder, of Waltham Forest Trades Council, explained that while it had initiated the meeting it hoped that a broader campaign body, Waltham Forest COP26 Coalition, would provide a place where local climate campaigners could meet and agree future activities in the run-in to COP26.

He also underlined why unions must be central to the debate on the necessary changes to achieve climate goals. Everyone will be affected, including the UK's 6.4 million trade unionists which is 23.5 per cent of our workforce, and they must have a voice in those changes. Any changes must be just and fair.

Delia Mattis, of Black Lives Matter and the Edmonton Incinerator Campaign, spoke of the campaign against the expansion of operations at the Edmonton Incinerator. She told of how people in the area are enduring a smelly, dirty and hazardous environment.

Delia said: "Incinerators are three times more likely to be built in areas of great deprivation, areas where there's poverty, working class areas. In the cities, those areas tend to have big black populations and big brown populations. And that is just a fact. Is it a class issue? Yes! But we can't deny the race aspect of it. We cannot."

She also said: "For a long time black voices or black people didn't feel like there was a space for them and this debate. And so we have to do more even to change that. And to make sure that communities feel that not just that they're represented that they can come into a space where they feel comfortable, and they can speak on behalf of their community. And that's what we've been doing in Enfield."

Local Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists Abigail and Andy reported on the fantastic continuing XR campaign and the latest rebellion in central London. There they had erected a giant pink table and approached the public to come to the table and talk about climate change. They also reported on a similar, smaller activity in Leytonstone which was supported by members of the Trades Council.

They underlined the need for action - which everyone agreed should follow on from the meeting. It was agreed to gather those interested to a further meeting to be held quickly after this one.

Suggestions were made as to what might be discussed there, such as holding events around the borough, linking the building of many high-rise blocks in the borough to climate change and continuing the XR example of talking at the table.

Given that this was a local event and the fact there were conflicting events elsewhere at the same time the number attending the meeting- 44 - was very good.

Waltham Forest COP26 coalition consists of local trade unionists and campaigners, Waltham Forest Trades Council and the WF climate emergency campaign. We support those who call for positive action on climate change, including Fridays For The Future and Extinction Rebellion. We also call for a just transition to a cleaner and healthier future where those affected, workers and communities, suffer no loss in that change.

We hope many more people and groups will join us in the fight for our future.