An open letter from the National Education Union (NEU) in Redbridge to our elected representatives on the climate crisis.

We are the largest educators union in the borough, representing over three thousand workers. At our recent annual conference we acknowledged the scale of the challenge which humanity now confronts, and we voted to congratulate the global school strikes which have acted as a wake up call.

There is an increasing body of research which links the poor (illegal) air quality in London to children’s ill health and their capacity to learn. To give an idea of the depth of the public health crisis we now face The Royal College of Physicians estimates that poor air quality shortens 40,000 lives in the UK each year.

In Redbridge:

• Some areas of the borough were recently recorded as having twice the legal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air.

• The fraction of mortality attributable to air pollution in the borough was recorded at 6.7 per cent in 2017.

• The estimated concentration of particulate matter in the air is 11.7 per cent.

All of these figures put Redbridge towards the most polluted end of the spectrum compared to other London boroughs. Recently the council lead member for civic pride said: "London’s toxic air is having a hugely detrimental effect on the lungs of children and young people."

In view the crisis we are all facing, we believe that we owe it to the children we work with and the people you represent to work with the upmost haste to institute measures to mitigate the worse impacts.

We therefore call on you; our councillors, MPs and MEPs to:

1. To declare a climate emergency in Redbridge in line with our areas in the UK

2. To support and work with Redbridge unions and other agencies to set up a Citizens Assembly in order to decide on measures we can take to address the crisis we must confront – this is one of the three demands from Extinction Rebellion.

3. As a first step, Redbridge NEU urges Redbridge Council to provide a suitable site for Redbridge Green fair at a reasonable and manageable charge. The sum proposed at the moment is prohibitive and calculated to discourage this lively and popular event aiming to promote consciousness of environmental issues.

We recognise that Redbridge has been at the forefront in terms of creating a traffic exclusion area around two primary schools and are keen to work with you to institute similar measures.

In the first instance we would welcome the opportunity to arrange a meeting with all interested parties; unions, faith groups, students, medical professionals, elected representatives and NGOs to develop ideas to establish a people’s assembly to make Redbridge carbon neutral by 2025.

Simon Shaw

Welfare Officer, National Education Union