OPINION: Voting for the future in local election - Zero Carbon Harrogate

What links the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCC) reports and the local election taking place in our district on May 5?

In May local residents across the Harrogate District will be choosing councillors to represent them on North Yorkshire’s new unitary authority. This new council will replace the current county council and the seven district and borough councils from April 1, 2023.

Once elected, the 90 new councillors will have to address urgent environmental challenges during their term of office. Crucially, that includes responsibility for steering the county’s decarbonisation plans as we transition to a zero carbon economy.

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As the latest report by the UN’s IPCC, published in March, makes clear, climate breakdown is accelerating rapidly. Many of the impacts will be more severe than predicted and we must take urgent action now to switch away from fossil fuels towards a clean, green economy powered by renewables, such as solar and wind.

The next five years, will be a crucial turning point in curbing greenhouse gases and building the infrastructure needed for a zero carbon economy. This coincides with the five year election term of candidates for the new North Yorkshire Council.

Opinion polls show that more and more people see climate change and the damage being caused to our natural world – here in North Yorkshire, nationally and globally – as key concerns that will influence the way they vote. That goes for young people in particular. A YouGov poll published on November 1, 2021 showed that 43 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK believe ‘The Environment’ is the most important issue facing the country.

The new unitary North Yorkshire Council will have control over key policy areas that can help to shape a zero carbon Yorkshire and with it bring the benefits of more local skilled “green jobs”, warmer homes and better air quality.

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For example, transport, which makes up the largest proportion of carbon emissions in North Yorkshire (2.0 MtCO2/yr) comes under the new council’s remit. As does the planning system which can support sustainable development and encourage local renewable generation to cut fuel bills and provide energy security.

Local authorities also provide leadership and drive change through their own practices and procurement. Harrogate Borough Council have committed for their own operations to be carbon net zero by 2038 and North Yorkshire County Council had committed to the same by 2030. Will these pledges be honoured by the new authority?

As a local charity, Zero Carbon Harrogate are keen to ensure that voters are well informed about candidates’ views on a wide range of environmental issues before they decide whom to support. As an apolitical organisation, we have no intention of pointing people towards a particular candidate or party.

However, we strongly encourage you to vote for the local candidate who you believe demonstrates a clear understanding of the environmental challenges that lie ahead. Whether this is through their previous actions or statements or manifesto pledges - a genuine commitment to protecting and enhancing our beautiful but rapidly degrading North Yorkshire is critical.

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But how will you know what the candidates’ views are? We will be seeking to give all local candidates the opportunity to share their opinions on local matters by offering them the chance to answer some questions about local environmental policies and action, which will then be published. See our website for details www.zerocarbonharrogate.org.uk

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