Community Plan - Priority 1:

Reducing carbon emissions to tackle climate change

Sustainable communities


  • To work towards becoming a carbon neutral borough by 2050 in order to reduce Merton's contribution to global warming and protect our planet for current and future generations.
  • To empower local residents and businesses to reduce their carbon footprint.

Time for action

The damaging impact of climate change is already being felt today, including more extreme weather events, damage to sensitive ecosystems, changing patterns of water availability and its associated effects on crops.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018 concluded global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to reach net zero by around 2050 to keep the world's temperature rise below 1.5°C to minimise damaging climate impacts on human and natural systems.

In 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to commit to having net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. On 10th July 2019, Merton Council declared a Climate Emergency and committed to working towards making the borough of Merton a carbon neutral borough by 2050, and to make Merton Council carbon neutral by 2030.

As a large proportion of emissions within the borough come from the buildings we work in and the vehicles we drive, the majority of which are outside the Council's direct control, everyone has a crucial role to play in decarbonising Merton. 

What happens if we do nothing?

The IPCC found that continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in every component of the climate system, increasing the chance of severe and irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems.

We are likely to see continued sea level rise, more extreme weather events and species extinction, reduced water and food security and increased ill-health, conflict and inequality. The risks of abrupt or irreversible changes will increase as the magnitude of the warming increases.

What would success mean?

As well as playing our part in reducing global climate change, taking action now to reduce emissions will improve our own health and well-being, resilience and local economy. 

We envisage a carbon-neutral Merton will have good public transport and active travel links for walking and cycling, energy-efficient and well-ventilated homes and offices, a significant proportion of locally generated electricity from solar panels installed on our rooftops, and increased tree coverage and green spaces.

You told us

A climate survey, designed for Merton residents, organisations, businesses and young residents, was issued in October 2019 to help develop Merton's Climate Action Plan.

From more 600 responses, there was overwhelming support for strong action to reduce the impact of climate change, with around 90% feeling their actions can make a difference as part of a wider community effort.

Community engagement and action was a key theme in all areas, including 74% of respondents saying they would volunteer to plant more trees and strong support to empower communities to create car-free areas.

However many highlighted the challenges of accessing the right information and support for such projects, as well as the cost of going green.

We aim to

To reduce carbon emissions in the borough, and work towards making the borough of Merton a carbon neutral borough by 2050, we will:

  • Develop a Climate Action Plan which will set out a roadmap to achieving our carbon reduction targets for the Council and the borough. Responses to a Climate Change consultation, and advice from the Climate Emergency Working Group, have identified 125 potential actions to be considered for the plan. Key themes include: Reducing energy consumption and switching to green energy sources; tipping public spaces away from private car use and towards walking, cycling and public transport; increasing green cover; and making responsible choices about the purchase of goods, financial investments and minimising waste.
  • Lead by example by making Merton Council carbon neutral by 2030. The council has taken important steps towards reducing carbon emissions from its own buildings over the last decade and will build on this work towards the new target. 

What can I do?

Everyone will need to work together to make adjustments to their daily lives in order to secure a better future for all.

The following sets out some of the key ways you can play your part in decarbonising the borough of Merton.

Buildings and energy - You can help by:

  • Reducing your energy consumption by making your home or business more energy efficient.
  • Finding out whether your home is suitable for efficient electric heating such as a heat pump – you may be eligible for payments through the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive.
  • Switching your power supply to a 100% green tariff or green energy supplier.
  • Installing solar panels on your home or business to generate renewable energy locally - you could get paid for any low-carbon electricity you export to the grid, with the National Government's Smart Export Guarantee.
  • Developing community energy projects with funding from the London Mayor's Community Energy Fund.

Transport - You can help by:

  • Avoiding using your car or replacing your petrol/ diesel vehicle with a low carbon alternative. For short journeys, try leaving your car at home. Walking and cycling improves health and reduces your carbon footprint. Given that climate change is a global challenge, you should also consider how you travel outside the borough (e.g. take the train as a low carbon alternative to flying). 

Waste and products - You can help by:

  • Following the principles of the waste hierarchy and avoiding waste wherever possible. Among other things, you can also buy locally, reduce your meat/ dairy consumption, and collect food waste.

Financial investments - You can help by:

  • Investing in sustainable products and services. Promote low carbon activities by ensuring that your pension fund, the money in your bank account, and any other personal investments are sustainable investments.

Green spaces - You can help by:

  • Planting trees on your property and encouraging others to do so. Please contact the Council if you are willing to become involved in a neighbourhood tree planting and maintenance effort or to use your property for tree planting.

Spotlight on...

Merton Climate Emergency Working Group

A climate emergency was declared in Merton in 2019, when a target was also set to make the borough carbon neutral by 2050. To help meet this ambitious declaration, a Climate Emergency Working Group has been put in place to develop a Climate Action Plan.

The Working Group is formed of a range of individuals who have offered their time, experience and specific knowledge of climate change issues to make up a diverse panel covering residents, businesses and services in the borough.

Among the 14 members is Tom Walsh, who lives in Colliers Wood and co-founded the Sustainable Merton environmental charity in 2007. Now aged 64, he has been a green campaigner for most of his adult life and says it is a "massive relief" that the world is finally taking action on climate change.

"If the world fails to change in the next 10 to 12 years, then events will occur that are not returnable – such as the loss of ice around Antarctica and Greenland which will see water and sea levels rising, threatening 800 million coastal dwellers around the globe.

"I trained in applied biology and when I was at college, our tutors said climate change wouldn't affect us in our lifetime. But they were wrong and we have lost a lot of time," he said.

A former Green Party candidate, Tom co-founded Sustainable Merton when he felt unable to make an impact on local environmental issues through political means.

At Sustainable Merton, Tom has worked with residents and groups across the borough discussing all aspects of climate change and has been involved with numerous environmental projects. These include working with 15 Merton schools showing young residents where their food comes from and how to grow their own, and helping run the Dig Merton scheme where vacant green spaces were planted with fruit, vegetables and flowers.

He also highlighted the on-going success of Sustainable Merton's Mitcham Community Orchard, where 200 residents and 12 partner organisations have worked together to transform a derelict area of spare land in Field Gate Lane into an award-winning orchard with 30 different varieties of fruit trees, seven raised beds, ponds, soft-fruits and a wild garden.

Tom's wealth of experience as an environmental pioneer will help shape the forthcoming Climate Action Plan for Merton now being prepared by the Working Group. They have agreed to structure tasks under the following themes:

  • Buildings and Energy
  • Transport
  • Products and Waste
  • Finance
  • Green Spaces
  • Behaviour Change and Engagement.

As co-ordinator of the Products and Waste theme, Tom says a strategy will be developed by Spring. Merton Borough Council is aiming to become carbon neutral as an organisation by 2030, with the borough as a whole to follow 20 years later.

"It is very encouraging to realise that the whole world is mobilising on climate change. I have waited 30 years for action like this to be taken," Tom added.

Swop It Up

Teenager Zaqiya Cajee has become an environmental activist after setting up her 'SwopItUp' clothing exchange for young people,

which not only gives them the chance to update their wardrobe for free, but enables them to understand how their choices impact the environment.

SwopItUp, run in schools by teenagers and for teenagers, sees clothes dropped off by pupils during a 'DropToSwop' week in return for tokens which they exchange for clothing pre-loved by fellow students at a school SwopItUp event.

Zaqiya, aged 17 and from Mitcham, was inspired to create the SwopItUp concept following a family holiday when she spent less than £30 on a whole new wardrobe at an Italian market filled with stalls piled high with pre-loved clothes.

She said: "Before that experience, as a growing teenager, I had found myself regularly buying new clothes, trapped by the cycle of fast fashion, which made it cheap and easy to buy new things. I have always loved clothes and style, but going to this market showed me that there are alternative ways to shop. Not only is it even cheaper, but buying pre-loved clothes is good for the environment as it reduces waste.

"This whole experience turned me into an advocate for pre-loved fashion. When I got home, however, I realised that there was nothing really aimed at my age group. It made me determined to give my peers an easy way to get pre-loved clothes with the added benefit of doing something good for the environment."

SwopItUp has other goals for schools, including linking the projects to different curriculum subjects such as geography, business, entrepreneurship, design, media, photography, technology, textiles and maths.

The skills that the project team develop by being a part of SwopItUp can also help provide them with a great start for employment, as well as understand more about the type of work activities that might appeal to them.

SwopItUp events have already taken place at Ricards Lodge High School in Wimbledon. The concept has also been running in neighbouring Wandsworth, and it is now expanding to other secondary schools with support from the RSA and the London Community Foundation.

Zaqiya said: "My goal is to have 25 schools on board with SwopItUp by the end of 2021 and soon after become a national, or even international, scheme.

"Since coming up with the idea for SwopItUp I feel I can call myself an environmental activist. I have taken action not only to reduce my own carbon footprint but to also provide others with a way to reduce theirs too. Once people start to take small steps with environmental action they are more likely to take the bigger steps.

"I don't believe that it will take a handful of people to work tirelessly to stop the climate crisis, it will take everyone to be more mindful about how their actions make an impact on the world. We need to work together if we are going to have any chance of solving this problem. SwopItUp is not just a clothing exchange, it is a concept that empowers youth to take real action."

To find out more about SwopItUp, visit: , email or check @swopitup on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.