Activists have criticised Croydon Council for not taking action enough action in the five years since it declared a climate emergency, with one campaigner saying: “It’s just not good enough.”

Campaigners have said the South London council has missed ‘easy wins’ and not engaged with the borough’s dedicated volunteer groups to address the crisis.

They believe this is even more pressing considering Croydon’s large population and fuel poverty levels.

This apparent lack of progress has prompted a wave of protest from green groups across the borough, including a dramatic ‘die in’ demonstration outside Croydon Town Hall as the council was meeting on Wednesday (April 17).

Connie Duxbury, CEO of Croydon Community Energy, led these protests by calling for greater environmental commitment from the council.

Duxbury told the crowd: “As part of the climate and ecological emergency pledges made in 2019, the council committed to being carbon neutral by 2030 – now not even six years away.

"Since that date, there has been a Citizen’s Assembly, a Climate Commission, and an Action Plan, all of which required the time and effort of local volunteers and other citizens of Croydon, not to mention the costs to the council, but it has resulted in very little meaningful action. We heard the phrase deeds, not words – where are these deeds?”

The phrase ‘deeds not words’ was used by then Labour Council leader Tony Newman when announcing the declaration at an event in 2019.

This phrase was accompanied by ambitions for Croydon to become London’s ‘greenest borough’.

While Croydon does have some of the largest areas of green space in the capital, its population size and geography place it at an acute risk of being disproportionately affected by climate change, as Duxbury told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) following the protest.

Indeed, higher rainfall than usual over the winter has left large parts of Croydon covered by a flood alert warning of heightened groundwater levels. People in Purley and Kenley have been warned of an almost constant risk of flooding for weeks.

She said: “It’s the most populated London borough, it’s got above average levels of fuel poverty and there’s loads of flooding risk.

"Of course, it affects the world, but specifically in Croydon there are lots of people that are going to be affected by climate change.”

She added: “Back in 2019, like many other councils, Croydon declared a climate emergency. Since then there have been assemblies and action plans but they haven’t actually done anything, it’s just not good enough.

“The Croydon Climate Crisis Commission produced 23 recommendations about how to tackle the climate crisis and as far as we know they haven’t done any of them. It’s costed and a lot of it is free.

"They will try to blame COVID for the delay but the action plan gave lots of free and easy low-hanging fruit that they could do to start making progress. It’s five years later now and it’s meant to be an emergency but they haven’t even got their own house in order.

“There are lots of people willing to help and already doing good stuff for the environment. The council is just not wanting to make the time.”

Croydon Council has faced several challenges since the declaration in 2019.

The onset of COVID and successive Section 114 bankruptcies meant the council had to focus on providing its essential services as a priority.

Despite this, the groups believe the council should not use these as excuses for not meeting their commitments.

During their protest, the group staged a ‘die in’ with testimonies of global climate-related suffering, while Croydon Climate Action’s Sam Baker read out a list of Mayor Jason Perry’s hustings promises.

Some of the groups attending the protest included the Croydon Green Network, Croydon Community Energy, Christian Climate Action, Croydon Climate Action and Extinction Rebellion.

Whilst the group had the political backing of the Croydon Green Party, they were keen to insist their protests were intended to highlight the indiscriminate impact of the climate crisis.

During the question time section of the council meeting, Ian Morris, of Sustainable Thornton Heath, questioned the council on their apparent lack of transparency and requested greater community engagement.

Croydon’s Cabinet Member for Streets & Environment Scott Roche responded, saying: “The Carbon Neutral Action Plan as agreed in 2022 still stands and this is currently being reviewed by the newly created carbon neutral team. This team is currently working to review and take stock of the work the council is doing and the progress against the plan.”

Roche also listed some of the council’s current climate-focused projects, including healthy school streets, the future procurement program, and the possibility of a fully electric fleet of waste collection vehicles.

However, Morris said: “The response from Councillor Scott Roche seemed to be a list of reviews, plans, and strategies – promising yet another report. By now shouldn’t there be a documented baseline of emissions and a path to zero by 2030 available for all of us to see and monitor?”

On a Facebook post made following the meeting, Morris added: “Croydon Council was only last month ranked 28th out of the 32 London boroughs by Climate Emergency UK in terms of the action it has taken towards net zero, dropping from 14th when the ranking was done only the previous year.

Croydon Council achieved an average score of only 37% overall, way below the 49% average of London boroughs.”

As a supplementary question, Morris asked Roche if he was interested in meeting with active community groups in this space to explore collaborating to speed up progress to achieving net zero. However, Morris believes Roche’s response that he was ‘willing to meet’ in a one to one, showed the council was still unwilling to work with green groups.

Fellow protest attendee and Green Councillor Ria Patel told the LDRS: “It’s been five years since Croydon Council declared a climate emergency and yet very little has been achieved to tackle the climate crisis since then.

"The Croydon Climate Crisis Commission was an important exercise, bringing together residents from across Croydon and giving them the power to imagine a better future; one that tackles the climate crisis instead of ignoring it."

From this a report was produced, which fed into the council’s own Carbon Neutral Action Plan.

One theme in the plan is ‘getting people and businesses involved’. However, critics say it feels as though this has been forgotten about.

Patel said: “Now, nearly halfway through Perry’s term as Mayor of Croydon, we are still waiting for the long-awaited Carbon Neutral Action Plan review. The political will to act with urgency when it comes to the climate crisis is nowhere to be found. Instead, the council is doing the bare minimum rather than implementing a strategic, coordinated plan that cuts across council departments to tackle the climate crisis.

“The climate crisis needs to be taken into consideration in all decisions being made at the council and we deserve to see this happening with importance. There are only 6 years left until the council’s own deadline of 2030 for carbon neutrality.”

Croydon Council was approached for comment but failed to respond in time for publication.