COP28: Newham Council launches UK’s first Climate Action Just Transition Plan 

Just tranition plan lbn

Newham is the first local authority in the UK to launch a Climate Action Just Transition Plan. Launch coincides with UN’s COP28 Summit marshalling the plan to ensure that residents benefit from transition to Net Zero.

Newham Council has become the first local authority in the country to launch a Climate Action Just Transition Plan. It provides a blueprint to address the unequal impacts of climate change on Newham’s residents who are disproportionality impacted by the climate emergency, but pay the highest costs for climate adaptation. The Just Transition Plan is part of building a fairer Newham towards lower emissions and healthier, equitable and climate-resilient lives.

At a Cabinet meeting yesterday (5 December), Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz OBE and her Cabinet approved the Council’s new Climate Action Just Transition Plan marking a sea change in the Council’s response to the climate emergency in Newham as COP28 urges the international community to do more to put nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action.

The realities of a changing climate and economy are already here so while decarbonisation remains critical, it must be delivered in a way that benefits local people and ensures they are prepared for and resilient to the risks presented by climate change.

While Newham residents have the lowest carbon footprint per person in London, they are also impacted by some of the highest climate risks in the country. Climate change is already disproportionately impacting those most vulnerable and exacerbating existing economic and health challenges experienced by communities of colour.

Newham’s Climate Action Just Transition Plan will accelerate the borough’s journey to net zero by 2045 while broadening the focus on adaptation and resilience measures around extreme heat, flooding and air quality. Integrating education, skills and job opportunities, Newham’s Just Transition Plan will benefit all residents and addresses existing inequities.

Following months of consultation and engagement with residents, communities, partners and stakeholders throughout 2023, new carbon baselines have been compiled for the Council and the borough within a new 3-6-5 framework to deliver the Climate Action Just Transition Plan.

Key highlights include:

  • Three principles: making sure that the focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions goes hand-in-hand with addressing inequities, helping the borough ready itself for the impacts of climate change.  
  • Six futures: a vision for a better Newham focused on the built environment, energy, mobility, waste and circular economy, food, and green infrastructure.
  • Five enablers: better ways of working to build council capacity, draw in needed resources and work effectively with residents, businesses and institutions in and out of Newham. 

This announcement coincides with this week’s (5 December) Just Transition-themed day at the international United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP28. Taking place in the United Arab Emirates, this year’s COP is marshalling the focus of the international community with the first global stocktake to assess climate efforts and progress so far on the Paris Agreement signed by 156 countries in 2015. Bringing global leaders together at a critical moment for climate action, COP28 is also focusing on gaps in climate actions with a special emphasis on fast-tracking the energy transition by 2030; transforming climate finance and putting nature, people, lives and livelihoods at the heart of climate action.

In-line with the COP28 event, the Council’s new Climate Action Plan reframes the borough’s approach to climate action calling for a just transition in Newham, across London and beyond.

Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, said: “Our Just Transition Plan sets a new direction for the Council. It is an ambitious statement of intent for unified climate action across the whole borough not only within the Council but with our leading institutions, businesses and communities – knowing it will take all of us if we are to address this emergency.

“Building on our previous climate change strategy, we are calling for a just transition in Newham, addressing the unequal impacts of climate change where low income and disadvantaged groups, contributing least to the climate emergency, disproportionately pay the highest costs for climate adaptation.

“Our plan sets out how we are building a fairer Newham, with the health and wellbeing and future of our people and planet at its heart. With the threat of climate emergency felt more in our borough than almost anywhere else in the UK, we’ve already witnessed devastating impacts which are set to increase as the climate crisis worsens. With this plan, we are taking action today.”

Malini Mehra, Chair of the London Sustainable Development Committee working group on London’s Just Transition, said: “London’s plans to tackle the climate emergency must be fair and improve people’s quality of life. The London Sustainable Development Commission (LSDC) has recommended in our report on London’s Just Transition that London’s political leaders should set out a vision people can get behind for a net-zero carbon, climate-resilient city; they should build public trust by empowering citizens to input to decision-making; and they must design fair environmental policies that help communities during the cost-of-living crisis.

“That’s why we’re delighted Newham Council is leading the way by launching the UK’s first Just Transition Plan, putting communities at the heart of its climate strategy. In a week when world leaders are gathering at the COP28 climate summit to discuss the role of local government action on climate change, it’s exciting that Newham is showing national governments and others the way ahead. We trust this new Plan will benefit Newham’s residents and look forward to seeing more local leaders adopt a similar approach in future.”

Councillor Dr John Whitworth, Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning and Development, Air Quality and Climate Emergency, said: “Newham continues to be at the forefront of climate action. As one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency in 2019, we have now launched London’s first Just Transition Plan.

“Setting out in detail how we will continue to decarbonise the borough, the Just Transition Plan will help us to achieve a less polluted, healthier, fairer and more energy efficient Newham, mitigating the effects of climate change to combat this existential danger which threatens us all.

“We want our Plan to be a framework for other local authorities and organisations to make sure that communities benefit as we work on adapting and being ready for the realities of an ever-changing climate. These benefits can be measured in terms of the health and wellbeing of our residents, but also through access to opportunities and education to ensure that all residents can successfully play a role in a changing world. This Plan is about creating a better city for all.”

The Council brought together cutting-edge global thinkers to create this plan, partnering with Arup and Dark Matter Labs.

Working in collaboration with the Council, leading consultants, Dark Matter Labs, said: "As the catastrophic effects of climate change and other crises become ever more evident - particularly for the residents of Newham - it is clear that to have any lasting impact we need new ways of working, not just the adoption of new technological fixes. Our teams have found it very productive to partner with a Council ambitious to place new forms of governance, financing and deep participation at the centre of their next generation climate action plan.

“And at a time where climate programmes are becoming increasingly politicised, we see Newham being a leader in putting fairness and justice front and centre of their strategies, policies and resource allocations."

Pioneering sustainability consultants, Arup, said: “The key ingredient on this project has been collaboration. Newham Council provided the conditions for Arup to co-design an ambitious Just Transition Plan with their officers and Dark Matter Labs. It keeps residents at the heart of the plan, while seeding the innovation needed to attract the capital to make change happen. The big question now is "what next?" - Newham Council is working up a portfolio of demonstration projects that are investment ready for scaling across the borough.”

Alongside the launch of the Just Transition Plan, Mayor Fiaz has written to the Government’s Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho, asking the Government to provide much needed funding for Newham and London to deliver social housing retrofits for electrification, improved energy efficiency and overall healthier homes acknowledging an estimated cost of over £800m for Newham’s council housing stock alone.

Read Newham’s Just Transition Plan by visiting the Council’s website here.

Read the full Cabinet Report here and read the Mayor’s letter to the Government’s Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho, here.

Published: 06 Dec 2023