The climate crisis in Newham

The climate crisis in Newham2020-04-20T16:17:51+00:00

The climate crisis affects everyone everywhere. Some of the issues affecting Newham are outlined here.

Air pollution

The think tank Centre for Cities reported in January 2020 that more than one in 19 deaths in Britain’s largest towns and cities are linked to air pollution and London is one of the worst affected cities. In the London borough of Newham, we suffer from some of the poorest air-quality in the UK, according to British Heart Foundation (BHF) analysis (2019), which can have a seriously detrimental effect on heart health, worsening existing conditions and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. Figures from Public Health England (PHE) show that seven in every 100 deaths of people aged 30 or over in Newham in 2017 were linked to long-term exposure to air pollution. Research also indicates that air pollution may be one of the most important contributors to deaths from Covid-19.

XR Newham demonstrating outside the offices of Ontario Teachers Pension Plan
XR Newham demonstrating outside the offices of Ontario Teachers Pension Plan 11 February 2020. Photo: Peter Fallon

Air traffic

One of the major contributors to air pollution, as well as carbon emissions generally, is air travel. Rather than planning to reduce this, major airports are planning for an increase in commercial flights. London City Airport, based in Newham, predicts that passenger demand will rise from the current 5 million passengers to 11 million annually by 2035 and is planning a huge expansion to ensure this is possible. Rather than accommodating and enabling this, we should be looking to reduce demand and invest instead in sustainable alternatives.

Also included in their expansion plans is an end to the current 24 hour weekend break from flights and introduce more flights in the early morning and late evening. The annual salary of an average passenger from London City Airport is reportedly £114,000 – four times the median UK income, three times that of the typical Londoner, and five times that of the average Newham resident. It’s also the highest of all the airports in the UK. This airport serves the very rich, whilst its pollution, traffic, noise and congestion harm some of the poorest communities in London.

XR Newham demonstrating outside the offices of Ontario Teachers Pension Plan 11 February 2020. Photo: Peter Fallon

Road traffic

Another major contributor to air pollution in Newham is road traffic and yet we’re seeing massive investment in developments that sustain and enable this. The Silvertown Tunnel is a major new river crossing, a four lane motorway with HGV lanes, to be built and opened in 2025. The tunnel’s construction will emit 153,000 tonnes of CO2 and lock in existing means of carbon intensive transport. Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz has written to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan warning him of the ‘detrimental impact’ the 1.4km crossing would have on traffic and air quality, urging him to invest in sustainable transport instead.

XR Newham demonstrating in Stratford centre with the Mayor of Newham – Rokhsana Fiaz – second from right. 20 September 2019

Plans for a huge distribution depot at Silvertown as tall as eight double-decker buses and would also mean thousands more vehicles driving through the area each day. The Royal Wharf Residential Association and the Royal Docks Against West Silvertown Lorry Depot campaign say, ‘Historically the area has not been affluent. Big industry is taking advantage of the opportunities here but the needs of local people are not genuinely being considered… We need more homes and public services in our area – not Gazeley’s gigantic lorry depot that actually brings very few permanent jobs to locals.’

MSG Sphere

The proposed MSG Sphere is a spherical entertainment complex, 90 metres high and 120 metres wide, containing restaurants, shops, a nightclub and the centrepiece: a 21,500-capacity auditorium. The same diameter as the London Eye and almost as tall as Big Ben, the giant sphere will be covered 190,000 sq ft of LEDs, programmable to display images on the exterior, incuding advertising. The building has been likened to Piccadilly Circus and the Stop MSG campaign say it will ‘severely blight the area, cause noise and light pollution, unmanageable overcrowding and transport chaos in Stratford and Maryland.’

XR Newham joned the Extreme Weather Warning in Stratford in December 2019.

Risk of flooding

Newham is a particularly low-lying borough, which means we’re vulnerable to any rise in water levels. A new interactive map built by Climate Central shows land projected to be below annual flood level in 2050, which includes almost all of Newham. Improved elevation data indicate far greater global threats from sea level rise and coastal flooding than previously thought, and thus greater benefits from reducing their causes.

Speakers at the XR day of action, London Fields, Hackney on 13 July 2019.


Find out how XR Newham is responding to the climate crisis in our borough.


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