Senior councillors have approved plans to cut the council’s carbon footprint by more than half following the local authority’s climate emergency declaration in March.
The new proposals mean that Leeds City Council will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from 70,000 to 31,000 tonnes by 2025, in line with science-based carbon reduction targets. The council hopes its bold plans will inspire individuals, businesses and central government to follow its lead by reducing their own carbon footprint.
According to findings from a four-month public consultation more than 97% of nearly 8,000 respondents believe that combating climate change and protecting biodiversity should be a priority for Leeds. The Big Leeds Climate Conversation consultation held in partnership with the independent Leeds Climate Commission combined focus groups, questionnaires, face-to-face event engagement and a groundbreaking Citizens’ Jury to gather a diverse range of views on how the city should respond to climate change.
Most residents agreed that both businesses and public sector organisations have a responsibility to reduce their own carbon footprints and to make it easier for individuals to make environmentally friendly choices. In a detailed report discussed by the council’s Climate Emergency Advisory Committee, the council has revealed its plan for reducing its carbon emissions by 55%.
By purchasing electricity from renewable sources the local authority will reduce its carbon footprint by more than 30,000 tonnes. The commitment will also support jobs in the UK’s growing low-carbon sector which employs more than 430,000 people nationwide.
Additionally, the council will work in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Vital Energi to double the number of properties receiving affordable, sustainable heat from the city’s district heating network over the next 12 months. Powered by waste from the city’s recycling and energy recovery facility (RERF), the Leeds PIPES district heating network will provide 8 major civic buildings and commercial properties plus 1,983 homes with low carbon heating and hot water by the end of 2020. Once fully built out the scheme is estimated to reduce the city’s carbon emissions by around 11,000 tonnes per year.
By more than doubling the council’s fleet of 95 electric vehicles already the largest of any U.K. local authority the council will further reduce its carbon footprint by another 1,000 tonnes. The switch to more zero-emission vehicles will also help tackle air pollution, protecting the health of everyone in Leeds.
To help reduce food-related emissions and improve the health of pupils, the council’s school meals service Catering Leeds has introduced a delicious and healthy climate-friendly menu at 182 primary schools across the city. The menu exceeds the National School Food Standards and has been well received by school children. Almost nine out of ten respondents supported the proposal when asked as part of the Big Leeds Climate Conversation.
Councillor Lisa Mulherin, Executive Member for Climate Change, Transport and Sustainable Development said:
“Just ten months after declaring a climate emergency, Leeds is setting a new gold standard for what can be achieved at a city level.
“Having held the Big Leeds Climate Conversation we know that there is widespread support from residents for tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity. We are taking immediate and transformative action to make Leeds a fairer, healthier and carbon-neutral city.
“These plans will cut our carbon emissions by more than half, meeting our science-based carbon reduction targets. But the same plans will also have many other benefits that are just as important: creating and sustaining green jobs and improving the health of everyone in the city.
“Like most residents, we believe that all organisations and individuals have a responsibility to live and work more sustainably and I encourage others to follow our lead. We all have a carbon footprint. We all have a responsibility to act now. Every action counts.
Andy Gouldson, Chair of the Leeds Climate Commission said:
“The Climate Emergency puts an intense focus on all the actions we take as a city from here on. As our Leeds Climate Change Citizens’ Jury said in their recommendations, immediate and urgent action is required, and everyone from the council to businesses, organisations, community groups and individuals have their part to play.
“Leeds Climate Commission has been pleased to collaborate with the council to jointly host the Big Leeds Climate Conversation. The findings give a positive steer that the public is up for bold solutions, which is very encouraging. We welcome the council’s actions to help Leeds become a carbon-neutral city; this is the start of the step change required over the next decade and taking citizens with us on that journey is essential.”
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council said:
“Tackling the climate emergency is one of the council’s key priorities and I am proud that this council is taking ambitious and necessary steps to make Leeds a more sustainable city and an even better place to live.
“However, we have always said that becoming a carbon neutral city won’t be possible without the support of the government. With additional powers and funding devolved from Westminster, the council and partners could radically improve the city’s housing stock and transport network to enable sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
“Of course, Leeds City Council will continue to do everything we can to fight the climate emergency but until the additional powers and funding we need are devolved by central government to a local level, this city’s ability to tackle climate change will continue to be severely hindered.”