Harrogate leaders back radical change at Yorkshire Climate Summit as action plan is unveiled for the region

Harrogate has made its presence felt at a new major climate action event which has launched an action plan for cutting carbon emissions in the region by 84 per cent by 2030.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Friday, 12th November 2021, 11:12 am
Top table - Harrogate was well represented at the first Yorkshire Climate Summit, a non party political body, was hosted in Leeds by the Yorkshire Post.

The first Yorkshire Climate Summit, a non party political body, was hosted at the Royal Armories by the Yorkshire Post and was attended by several hundred representing business, local authorities and community groups from across the region.

The highlight of the inaugural summit saw the launch of a 50 point it's Climate Action Plan supported by many Harrogate names who spoke at the event in support of major change.

Among the names were:

Wallace Sampson, Chief Executive HBC, and Senior Officer for Local Authority Coordination on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission

Richard Cooper, Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, and Vice Chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission

Prof Andy Gouldson, Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission (Harrogate resident)

Prof Piers Forster, IPCC Lead Author and Member of the UK Committee on Climate Change (Harrogate resident)

Holly Hanson-Maughan, Partnership and Development Lead for Harrogate College

Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said the situation facing the planet was an emergency and needed to be addressed as such at a local level as much as a national and international one.

Coun Cooper said: "There is a climate emergency. Whether councils vote to declare one, whether businesses embrace the fact and react to it and whether individuals lessen their carbon footprint, it is an inescapable fact that we are altering our environment for the worse.

"As councils we know that we have a big part to play in reducing the carbon footprint of the public sector.

"We know too that we need to reposition public sector purchasing to encourage the companies that supply us to decarbonise. We need to bring together the coalition of groups who can make net zero happen in Yorkshire and the Humber.

"And we need to demonstrate determined leadership."

A major new report produced for the Climate Change Summit said Yorkshire and Humber currently emits 7.5 per cent of UK emissions - higher levels than entire countries like Croatia, Slovenia and Cyprus.

The report sets the target of a 68 per cent reduction in emissions in Yorkshire and Humberside by 2025.

Professor Andy Gouldson, director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Change Commission, admitted it would be a challenge to achieve such an ambitious goal but it could be done.

He said: “I hope this is a watershed moment and as a region we recognise the massive opportunity for us to make our lives better and the region a better place while also doing our bit for climate change.

“I hope in 15 to 20 years Yorkshire is seen as a genuine leader on climate action but also as a fantastic place to live and work - partly as a result of its climate actions.”

Professor Gouldson said to achieve the 2025 target, the “two big ticket items” would be the mass retrofitting of homes and commercial buildings as well as “heavy investment” in public transport, electric vehicles and walking and cycling routes.

While the report estimates the transition to net zero could cost around £1.5bn to the region and highlights that currently 360,000 local jobs - around 15 per cent in the region - are in industries with high-carbon emissions, Professor Gouldson said that if done correctly, changes to the economy and embracing green industries like offshore wind could have major benefits to the region.

Jemima Parker, chair of environmental pressure group Zero Carbon Harrogate, said she was encouraged by the progress made at the Yorkshire summit which has taken place in the final week of COP26 in Glasgow.

She said: "It is really encouraging for the District to have strong leadership at a regional level as we face the climate challenge together. Yorkshire has a population of 5.5 million, larger than many small nation states.

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

The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action plan is about putting climate action (reaching net zero and climate adaptation and resilience) at the heart of all decision making, treating the climate crisis as the emergency that it is.

"It is also about taking this opportunity as we restructure to do so in a more equitable way (not leaving the poorest behind) and working with nature to create climate solutions and restore habitats.

"At the conference we heard the strong support and action already being taken across the region by local authorities, businesses and community groups."

The possibility of a move to carbon reductions creating a win-win scenario for businesses is something also welcomed by Coun Cooper.

"The plan shows the financial costs of what we have to do. But it also shows the financial benefits," Coun Cooper said. These are considerable in terms of new and growing industries in the field of decarbonisation.

"We can only build this resilience and avoid further harm by working together as public sector, private business, voluntary sector and individuals.

"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.

"This action plan shows us here in Yorkshire and the Humber how that can be done.

"It shows how we as individuals can have an impact, how our communities, businesses and the public sector can play their part."

Included in the report’s 50 actions are calls for the integration of climate and nature into the curriculum in schools, the development of the promotion of green finance and investment and the inclusion of emissions from aviation and shipping in the region’s net zero target.

While it has no policy-setting powers, the commission’s work has the support of the influential Yorkshire Leaders’ Board made up of local council and combined authority leaders and chief executives.

In a joint statement, Yorkshire Leaders Board co-chairs Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, and Sir Stephen Houghton, leader of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, said: “Climate change is not a remote or distant issue. Many of our communities have already experienced extreme weather in recent years.

“In time, every corner of Yorkshire and Humber will be directly or indirectly impacted by the changing environment to some degree.

"The Commission’s recommendations on how our region can adapt are therefore an extremely important contribution.