Schools run in Harrogate may change to tackle climate crisis

Hopes are high that the launch of a new Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition will represent a sea change in how the district tackles what has been described as the “biggest challenge of our time.”

Monday, 16th December 2019, 12:18 pm
Updated Monday, 16th December 2019, 12:41 pm
Harrogate Coun Phil Ireland says the time has come to act on climate change in Harrogate.

The public has already been primed for the changes ahead, in part by recent efforts by North Yorkshire County Council to come up with ways of tackling our growing traffic congestion problems - and changing the school run each day may figure strongly.

Should the pioneering new group - spearheaded by Harrogate Borough Council - prove successful, it will mean significant changes in the daily lives of residents on the district’s path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

One of its key members, Coun Phil Ireland who is Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for sustainable transport, said doing nothing about the climate crisis was no longer an option.

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Coun Ireland said: “This is a huge opportunity to increase our energy efficiency, improve our resilience and deliver a greener, healthier society.

“Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. Standing by doing nothing is not an option.

“We need action to cut carbon and increase resilience.

“Collaboration is very important. Membership will be open to those organisations and individuals who are willing and able to support the Coalition’s purpose proactively.”

The new Harrogate District Climate Change Coalition has already identified five possible ways in which it will seek to make a difference.

1 Action Plan

The Climate Coalition will meet four times a year, with additional sub-groups as required, to agree and deliver an annual action plan to deliver achievable outcomes for the benefit of the Harrogate district.

For transparency, all its papers and minutes will go online via a web page to be set up on the Harrogate Borough Council’s site.

2 School run

An initial project to consult on ideas to reduce the number of cars on the daily school run. The Climate Coalition would be very interested to hear what parents, teachers and the children themselves think about possible solutions.

3 Business Solutions

Exploring cost-saving opportunities opened up by businesses clubbing together, sharing information and coming up with solutions such as a Solar Power Purchasing Agreement covering business parks in the district.

4 Tree planting

Committing to a large increase in tree planting across the district, perhaps, as part of the Northern Forest, a government-backed initiative from the Woodlands Trust and community forests.

Currently there is 10.2% tree cover in the Harrogate district which is higher than the Northern Forest area which has 7.6%

The national target is in the region of 20%.

5 Walking and cycling

Increasing the levels of walking and cycling across the district should become a priority.

The Climate Change Coalition’s core membership is wide, part of a new alliance in Harrogate of ‘green’ groups, businesses, schools, voluntary groups and local authorities.

As well as Coun Ireland, other members who are councillors include Coun Andy Paraskos, Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for environment, and from North Yorkshire County Council, Coun Paul Haslam.

Businesses who’ve joined the Climate Coalition include Bettys and Harrogate Bus Company.

Students are involved, too, from St Aidan’s High School in Harrogate and King James’s in Knaresborough.

One small but influential group expected to play an important role in the new Climate Change Coalition in the coming months is not-for-profit organisation Zero Carbon Harrogate.

Founded two years ago to help the Harrogate district achieve a net zero carbon future, its politics-lite approach has left it free to bring together residents from many walks of life with a clear goal - making Harrogate District a net zero carbon community by 2030 in order to secure a sustainable future.

Its chair, Jemima Parker said the Climate Coalition was a “pioneering idea” but it had to get to grips with the real issues.

She said: “We are delighted that Harrogate Borough Council has taken a lead in setting up this pioneering Climate Coalition for the district and is drawing together a group that covers the main area of greenhouse gas emissions from across the district, such as industry, agriculture and transport.

“There are significant challenges ahead, for the district, as we strive to radically reduce our carbon emissions. I hope the Climate Coalition will get to grips with these issues and help to provide a constructive framework to implement change.”

At the Climate Coalition’s first meeting, members agreed to look at implementing an initial project for consultation.

One idea was to look at ideas for reducing the number of cars on the daily school run in the Harrogate district.

Coun Ireland said it was clear the key to creating a carbon free future lay in what might turn out to be controversial changes involving the behaviour of the public.

He said: “The county council’s recent Congestion Study showed 78% of the 15,500 respondents from the public did not support the construction of a new relief road.

“The strongest support was in favour of improving the cycling and walking infrastructure and encouraging smarter travel choices.

“In order to achieve this shift there will be a need for behaviour change and an acceptance that some of this will be controversial.”

The Climate Coalition’s emerging action plan is focused around the main sectors in the national Government Carbon Statistics: Industry and Commerce, Agriculture, Domestic Energy Use, Transport, Land Use Change and Forestry.

The new group’s membership may not be completely finalised - but it’s approach is clear.

Coun Ireland said: “It is important to show that wider climate impacts have a local real-life relevance.

“How can we translate climate impacts into real life scenarios here in Harrogate, on the ground?

“How liveable will our buildings be?

“What will our environment look like?”