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Climate emergency


London Borough of Tower Hamlets was one of the first councils in the country to declare a climate emergency and is at the forefront of addressing climate change. 

The Mayor declared a climate emergency in March 2019 and the council has committed to become a net zero carbon council by 2025 and a net zero carbon borough by 2045 or sooner.

Implementing actions and change

We are implementing our Net Zero Carbon Action Plan which sets out our goals and commitment to tackling the climate emergency.

We are delivering against our climate emergency ambitions through a number actions and decisions.


  • Sustainable Workplace programme to encourage sustainable behaviours for council employees including
    • promoting resource efficiency
    • reduction in single use plastics and elimination of plastic cups from buildings
    • introduction of food waste collection to council offices to reduce waste being sent to landfill and incineration.
  • Adopted Local Plan policies that require all new development to achieve net zero carbon status.

  • Review of council Assets for Zero Carbon retrofit feasibility. Proposals include transitioning to low carbon heating and hot water systems and LED lighting, these projects will reduce carbon emissions by 105 tonnes a year.

  • Review of design standards for new council development to ensure that requirements align to the climate emergency declaration and deliver net zero carbon objectives.

  • Review of new town hall proposals to ensure design is as energy efficient as possible and operating environment and systems are low carbon.


  • Since 2019 the council purchases 100 per cent renewable electricity.

  • Completed initial feasibility for decarbonisation of Barkantine Heat and Power district heating network.

  • Commenced Solar PV analysis of Tower Hamlets buildings owned by the council to identify appropriate spaces to install renewable energy generating technologies.

  • Completed Bio-solar retrofit feasibility study of Tower Hamlets Homes properties to deliver renewable energy generating technologies (photovoltaics) and biodiverse roofs.

  • Continued delivery of carbon reduction projects
    • grants programme for schools to deliver carbon reduction measures saving 348 tonnes carbon
    • grants programme for SME’s for energy efficiency saving 198 tonnes carbon
    • residential heating efficiency project reduced carbon emissions by 70 tonnes.
  • 98 per cent of our street lighting upgraded to LED.


  • Adoption of Tower Hamlets Transport Strategy which sets out our vision and priorities for travel in Tower Hamlets from 2020 – 2041 through sustainable means of transport.

  • Launched Liveable Streets programme which aims to improve the look and feel of public spaces in neighbourhoods across the borough. This will make it easier, safer and more convenient to get around by foot, bike and public transport.

  • We have planted our 750th tree and working towards our commitment of delivering 1000 street trees.

  • We have installed 120 electrical vehicle charging points across the borough


  • The Pensions Committee have actively engaged with the climate change agenda and are looking at revising their investment strategy toward a greener portfolio. The Tower Hamlets pensions fund are on a journey towards decarbonisation of their investments.

Climate Change Event 2021 - outcomes




The council’s calculated emissions do not include the whole supply chain due to the complexity of calculating this. However, we are very aware that we are responsible for emissions throughout the supply chain.

To tackle this our Procurement Team is developing a Sustainability Matrix to be used when procuring goods and services to ensure sustainability and climate change is considered throughout council processes.

Through embedding climate change considerations into the procurement process the Council will be encouraging, influencing, and rewarding businesses for climate action. This will also reduce emissions in our supply chain.


  • The council reports carbon emissions in accordance with the Government BEIS/DEFRA Environmental Reporting Guidelines
  • Reporting currently covers energy use and fuel consumption for buildings and transport
  • developing sustainability matrix for all procurement processes to embed climate change considerations into procurement process the council will be encouraging, influencing, and rewarding businesses for climate action
  • investigating how to accurately report whole life cycle of services, products, and processes into future reporting.
As part of bringing the waste, recycling, and street cleansing service "In-House" from April 2020, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (LBTH) needed to replace vehicles previously supplied and operated by our contractor Veolia. 
Most of the old Veolia fleet was aged and non-compliant with the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).  Only diesel vehicles with a Euro 6 low emission engine standard, Euro 4 petrol engine or electric vehicles, can enter the ULEZ area without being subject to an additional charge. 
We allocated £10 million in capital funds to procure most of these vehicles. We spent approximately £9 million on larger cleaner diesel waste, recycling, and cleansing vehicles, all of which meet the current Euro 6 reduced emission standard.  
Whilst the council plans to increase the use of electric powered vehicles, at the time we needed to deliver a fleet that could operate efficiently and costs effectively. The lack of widespread charging infrastructure, the need to maintain essential waste services, high cost and short operating range of large electric waste and cleansing vehicles did not make this possible. 
The remainder of our fleet have been replaced on short term leases to enable us to introduce electric cars, vans, and some larger vehicles. This will happen when we have installed the required electric charging infrastructure and suitable vehicle can be supplied.
Further trials and early introduction of electric and electric / hybrid vans and cars is a priority in 2020/21. In addition, we are reviewing options and monitoring vehicle technology developments to plan for wider introduction of clean fueled vehicles in 2023.

Funding is one of the big barriers to completing actions. The council has a grants programme to support Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) make environmental changes that they can’t afford to carry out.

This programme provides 50 per cent grants up to £10,000 to SMEs who want to install heat pumps or renewables and 50 per cent grants up to £5,000 for all other energy efficiency projects.

This programme has been running since 2018 and has been successful in awarding all its available funding to SMEs. 


  • The council is committed to providing support to businesses and organisations to respond to the climate emergency
  • Council delivering the third phase of t support for Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) to deliver energy efficiency measures and reduce operating costs. 

London Borough of Tower Hamlets

There are ongoing discussions on green washing but to a certain degree LBTH are bound by local authority procurement regulations. However, this has been highlighted across the utility sector and changes are being implemented to ensure all green supplies are transparent.
LBTH are looking at CPPA’s (Corporate Power Purchase Agreements) for future supply.

Canary Wharf Group

Canary Wharf Group (CWG) have been procuring renewable electricity backed by industry accepted Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs) since 2012.

In addition, CWG are a member of RE100 which promotes the use of renewable forms of electricity. In 2020, CWG published long term science-based targets which recognises this form of electricity procurement.

However CWG are, like the rest of society, continually looking to achieve best practice and in conjunction with ongoing supplier performance reviews and long term procurement cycles, CWG can confirm that Corporate Power Purchase Agreements are a part of the CWG long term energy purchasing plans of the Estate.

Without doubt credible REGOs have been a helpful ‘stepping stone’ to enable many consumers to make the transition from brown energy procurement.


Renewable energy purchase - The council is continually looking to achieve best practice and ensure transparency through emission reporting and energy purchase. LBTH are looking at CPPA’s (Corporate Power Purchase Agreements) for future supply.


We don’t have previous experience of this. However, it is something we are keen to look at and develop. Although there will be an increased cost to getting to net zero the benefits of this will outweigh the financial costs to ensure we are addressing the climate emergency.


Delivering a net zero carbon borough has many challenges. In some instances there could be an increased cost to getting to net zero, however the benefits of this will outweigh the financial costs to ensure we are addressing the climate emergency through minimising future retrofit costs and mitigating against financial and social costs associated with climate change.


We are engaging with one Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) and the work they are doing on promoting renewable energy amongst residents on that estate. We are always open to providing support to TRAs on climate related work.



Q7. Will the council commit to opposing national infrastructure projects like the silvertown tunnel. There is evidence that these projects increase traffic rather than reducing it. How can the council support green renewable projects while expressing support for projects that will increase emissions and pollution in the borough?

Q8 Part of the council strategy is a reduction in HGV emissions. How will support for the Silvertown Tunnel help to achieve this?

Silver Town Tunnel

Assessment of traffic impacts by TfL suggest that the scheme (compared with no implementing) will reduce CO2 emissions in 2021 (projected scheme opening at time of submission) but will increase them by 2036.

Throughout the Development Consent Order process, the Council offered ‘in principle’ support for the scheme recognising the potential benefits to substantially reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in an area with sharp exceedances of NO2 legal limits.

Support was, amongst other matters contingent upon the forecast air quality improvements being fully secured and any possible adverse impacts upon air quality fully mitigated.

Any increase in GHG emissions from the scheme does not change the targets set to the borough via the Mayor Transport Strategy to reduce carbon emissions from transport sources in the borough by 72 per cent by 2041 (from 2013 baseline).

Find out more on the Project details. In here you will find details of LBTH representations to the Planning Inspectorate setting out our position throughout the Examination in Public.


We already have a portal for residents to identify sites for housing, this could be used to identify land for community spaces.

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