30 March 2024

We Come in Peace – but the Climate Crisis won’t

There are many ways you could respond to a Councillor sharing climate change denial propaganda, or the Member of Parliament for Rochester and Strood, Kelly Tolhurst, rejecting clean-air solutions amidst increasing ill-health due to air pollution. One may wonder whether Kelly Tolhurst knows that the Rochester West and Borstal ward is the worst ward in Medway for emergency admittances to hospital for asthma in children?

Let’s not waste effort on an unconstructive argument with Medway Conservatives, who are unlikely to change their views for personal, or political reasons. We would prefer to give an update on the position of Medway in the midst of the climate, and ecological, crisis. Perhaps, those in denial might just spare a thought for the future dilemmas we will find ourselves in.

You probably don’t need an update on the global warming emergency, either because the facts are clear at this point, or the facts are so frightening that you’d rather not be reminded. There are some who do need reminding though, for all our sakes, so let’s briefly cover the position the world is in.

A United Nations agency, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), recently released a State of Global Climate report in which it says that 2023 was the ‘hottest year on record by a clear margin’. On the report, the UN’s General Secretary had to say, “Sirens are blaring across all major indicators… Some records aren’t just chart-topping, they’re chart-busting. And changes are speeding-up.” You can read the report here

As for the impact of climate change on Medway and Kent, a recent Kent Online article covered the implications of rising sea levels and increasingly strong storms by 2050. The signs are not positive, and the increasing flood risk could cause a significant risk to many residents that live on or near the coast. You can read the article here.

Medway Green Party strongly believe that by declaring a climate emergency, as Medway Council did back in 2019, it provided itself (with the support of all Medway Members of Parliament) with the platform to deliver extraordinary measures on three distinct fronts.

Firstly, to lead by example, and illustrate the behaviours and investments required at scale to bring its greenhouse gas emissions to a downward trajectory.

Secondly, to use its direct influence over contracted suppliers, landowners, developers, and industry operating in Medway, to encourage good behaviours, and to take a strong line on them failing to meet their responsibilities.

And thirdly, by widely engaging the Medway community to help them understand what behaviours and changes will make the biggest difference, and facilitate schemes to bring these

about in the most economical way possible.

This is the serious approach that is needed to put the urgency in “Emergency”!

So, where are we? How can we best assess the progress, or lack of it, from Medway Council between the previous Conservative administration and the current Labour Party Council?

Climate Emergency UK have, for the past few years, been independently assessing both the content of local authority Climate Plan Scorecards (2022), and more recently assessing the strongest indicators of progress, via their Climate Action Scorecards (2023), see Medway Council’s scorecard here. Whilst Medway Council scored highly on the overall content of its initial Climate Change Action Plan (scoring 71%), its score masks the fact that it scored 0% on Diversity and Inclusion and only 50% on the Ecological Emergency.

More critical, however, is the lack of clear prioritisation in allocation of resources to tackle the declared climate emergency and distinct delivery of the commitments made in its Climate Change Action Plan.

To assess this, let’s go back to the three fundamentals, and the Council’s most recent Climate Action Scorecard assessment (39% overall):

  1. Understanding its own greenhouse gas emissions footprint, and defining and delivering on plans to reduce it: Medway Council has not published its own greenhouse gas emissions and the absence of such reporting makes it impossible to tell its progress since the Climate Emergency was declared in 2019. Whilst its Corporate Plan makes reference to achieve Net Zero by 2050, its Medium Term Financial Plan includes no reference to Net Zero, or tackling the Climate Change Emergency as one of its main priorities. This situation is made worse by the lack of “adoption of governance and decision-making processes that put the Climate Emergency at the heart of every council decision made”.

  1. Understanding the Council’s Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon emissions footprints is critical to support the prioritisation of climate action and allocation of available funding: Commitment was made in 2022 to undertake this activity. This work was supposedly prioritised and commitment made at a Full Council to complete the work by May 2023. This analysis has still not been completed, and further to this the Climate Action Scorecard notes that “climate action and waste reduction has not been embedded into their procurement policies”. Without this clarity, the Council continue to operate in a vacuum, prioritising their own pet projects and/or greenwashing initiatives such as the Red Route scheme, which will neither reduce emissions, nor improve air quality.


  1. Creating a clear, prioritised view of the ways in which Medway residents need to change their household energy use, to support the wider reduction of carbon emissions across Medway, as this will account for the largest contribution to Medway’s Net Zero target by 2050: The “Community Working Group on Climate” initiative, from the new administration, is a welcome change from previous administration, but much needed leadership, and coordination, is currently missing for this to operate at scale. The decision not to replace the head of the Climate Response Team, nor permit the wider engagement of non-elected party representatives, is telling. This, coupled with the current lack of joined up thinking around the engagement between the political ward plans on climate, and local Eco-Hubs, illustrates the level of gap that needs to be addressed.

To conclude:- At this time our current government appears to be not only intentionally stalling on its Net Zero commitments, but also on:- air pollution, energy performance expectations for new homes, landlord obligations for new and existing tenancies, Southern Water continuing to pollute the River Medway at will, we could go on. There continues to be a need for Medway Council to deliver, and set the tone, for what Medway must become, and to silence its own climate change deniers.

If there is anything positive we can leave you with, Medway’s Climate Change team has launched a ‘Refresh Medway’ project that aims to give young people the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings on climate change. Let’s hope they can bring the action that is so desperately needed.

Medway Green Party – March 2024

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