'Watershed moment' as Yorkshire's plan to cut carbon emissions by 84 per cent by 2030 revealed
The Yorkshire Climate Action Plan, which is being published today, said while the region’s direct carbon emissions have already fallen by 44 per cent on 2000 levels, rapid action is needed to set the county on the pathway to reaching the region's target of achieving net zero by 2038.
Professor Andy Gouldson, director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Change Commission which has produced the report with the input of 500 people, 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.”
The report, which is being published today at The Yorkshire Post Climate Change Summit in Leeds, said Yorkshire and Humber currently emits 7.5 per cent of UK emissions - higher levels than entire countries like Croatia, Slovenia and Cyprus.
It sets the ambition of a 68 per cent reduction in emissions by 2025 - something Professor Gouldson admitted would be a “real challenge”.
He said gradual reductions in emissions since 2000 could be put down to factors like the decarbonisation of electricity generation, changes within manufacturing and energy-efficiency improvements in homes.
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.
“There is the potential to create massive benefits for the region in terms of job creation and job protection and reducing fuel bills and tackling fuel poverty,” he said.
“There are really positive options but there could also be some downsides, especially for jobs in high carbon sectors. We need to identify and support those people and businesses in those sectors to transition.
“I think the net effect will be really positive - we can live happier, healthier, more prosperous lives in the region. But there are challenges and we have to be honest and tackle those.”
The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Change Commission - a non-party political body involving 40 commissioners from the public, private and third sectors and which is supported by local councils - has developed the plan with the input of more than 500 people.
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.
“We will work together to build the support from our communities, businesses and national government that will be vital to make all of these actions possible.”
Plan welcomed by mayors
South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis will be speaking at today’s summit.
He said: “The climate emergency is the greatest challenge we face. We must urgently confront it while also tackling the long-standing inequalities holding the Northern economy back. We’ve declared a climate emergency in South Yorkshire, and have pledged to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040 at the latest.
“But we must do this in a way which benefits not only just the environment, but our people too – creating good jobs, boosting our productivity, and building a future that’s happier, healthier and more prosperous for everyone.
“This plan is a significant first step to building that future for Yorkshire and the Humber. It’s critical that we start this work now, there is no time to waste.”
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, will be opening the summit.
She said: “The climate emergency is a global crisis but the solutions are local and that’s why the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s Action Plan is so vital.
“Many of the measures being called for in this plan are mirrored in the West Yorkshire Climate and Environment Plan which was launched last month and sets out how we will deliver a net zero carbon region by 2038 at the latest.
“Both plans are clear – we need urgent and collaborative action now. We cannot afford to delay.”
Impact of climate change on Yorkshire
The report states that it is projected that, as the weather and climate continue to change, the UK will experience:
• More frequent and intense storms and other extreme weather events throughout the year;
• Longer, hotter, drier summers with more frequent heatwaves and droughts;
• Milder, wetter winters with less snow and ice but more intense rainfall and flooding;
• Rising sea levels and increased coastal erosion.
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