Hope begins at home as Harrogate debates success or failure of COP26 summit

In a momentous time for the climate emergency in which Harrogate activists dismissed COP26 as a disappointment, hope has come from a potentially ground-breaking step closer to home.

Friday, 19th November 2021, 2:31 pm
Updated Friday, 19th November 2021, 2:32 pm
Harrogate cyclists taking part in a protest at COP26 in Harrogate.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that the crucial target of limiting global warming to 1.5 C was still alive was rubbished by Extinction Rebellion Harrogate members who marched in Glasgow behind a banner made by a Harrogate family, a new Yorkshire initiative has been welcomed as the way ahead.

Launched in Leeds last week at a summit hosted by the Yorkshire Post, The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan includes 50 practical measures to cut carbon emissions in the region by a whopping 84 per cent by 2030.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones said: “Our area was at the forefront of the event with the chief executive and the leader of Harrogate Borough Council speaking alongside internationally-renowned climate change experts and major regional political figures from West and South Yorkshire.

“The Yorkshire and Humber Action Plan is a ground-breaking document.

“It gives us 50 action points to move our region in the direction we need to go.

“For example decarbonising our region’s energy could save £2.4bn a year from our collective energy bill.”

Jemima Parker, chair of environmental pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate said she was encouraged by the progress made at the Yorkshire summit whose key goals included:

The mass retrofitting of homes and commercial buildings.

Major new investment in public transport, electric cars and walking and cycling.

Jemima Parker said: “It is really encouraging for the Harrogate district to have strong leadership at a regional level as we face the climate challenge together.

“There are many opportunities for the local economy as we transition to a net zero carbon together.”

The possibility of a move to carbon reductions creating a win-win scenario for businesses was something also welcomed by Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper.

He said: “We need to transition to a new economy – an economy where the survival of our eco-system is the most important factor in our economic growth.

“The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan shows the financial costs of what we have to do. But it also shows the financial benefits.

“These are considerable in terms of new and growing industries in the field of decarbonisation in sectors such as wind turbine manufacture, hydrogen electrolysis, carbon capture and others.”

The results of all the diplomatic wrangling by world leaders at COP26 in Glasgow are still being disputed.

Harrogate MP Andrew Jones says he remains optimistic but realistic. I thought getting the world to agree any deal at COP26 was a challenge.

“Although the early commitment on fossil fuels was diluted, the ‘phasing down’ of coal use was still a massive step forward from previous treaties where commitments on fossil fuels were noticeable only by their absence.

“There were successes , too. For instance 90 per cent of the world’s economy is now committed to net zero carbon emissions compared to 30 per cent when the UK took the presidency of COP.”

Although in some ways the UN summit on climate action turned out much better than many people had expected, the Harrogate environmental activists the Harrogate Advertiser spoke to all voiced concerns that the pledges made did not go far enough.

Victoria Wild of Extinction Rebellion Harrogate said: “The pace of change is too slow and the agreements being reached aren’t bold enough.

“From every perspective, including economically, it makes sense to seize the chance to make changes now.

“Change is coming whether we like it or not - the choice is whether we act now and shape those changes or whether we wait till runaway climate change is thrust upon us.”

Harrogate people looking to make their voices heard on the climate emergency took part in a family-friendly march in the town centre last weekend.

The Harrogate Climate March was organised by a range of Harrogate activists, including members of Extinction Rebellion Harrogate.

XRH members said they were proud to be there in person at the big protest march in Glasgow last Saturday.

Harrogate master banner maker Anna Bryer used a Climate Stripes image which shows global temperature changes since 1820 as the starting point for her eye-catching creation at the protest made from recycled fabric...

Whether the climate action glass is half empty or half full after COP26 is partly a matter of attitude as well as policy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim that the “death knell” had been sounded for coal power despite a last-minute decision by India and China to oppose a a commitment to “phase out” coal in favour of a pledge to “phase down” coal may have been questioned.

But there was no argument over the significance of the agreement signed by countries covering 90 per cent of the globe’s forests to end deforestation by 2030.

Hope lives on, said XRH member James White who was there in Glasgow

“COP26 has shown us that we are not the minority anymore," he said.

“When you’re in this huge crowd you realise that ordinary people recognise the threat of climate change. It’s a mainstream concern now.”