'We must lead revolution on the environment,' says Leeds citizens' jury

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Leeds has to be at the front of the environmental revolution, a citizens’ jury has demanded, as they said drastic measures must be taken to avert a climate crisis.

Taking buses back into public ownership, retrofitting houses to bring them up to eco-standards, and scrapping the controversial expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport are just three of the suggestions from a panel made up from a cross-section of Leeds, tasked to map the way forward in the city’s effort to tackle climate change.

Professor Andy Gouldson. Photo: Leeds Climate Commission

Professor Andy Gouldson. Photo: Leeds Climate Commission

The jury concluded: “Leeds led the world in the industrial revolution - we believe the city can now lead an environmental revolution.”

The 21-strong jury, put together by the Leeds Climate Commission, was selected through a process to make it representative of a “mini-public” of Leeds, with varying different views.

Commission Chairman Professor Andy Gouldson said there were six among the number who initially said they were not concerned about climate change at all, however a majority had since changed their views.

He said: “There are more and more people more concerned [about climate change], so we wanted to hear from normal people. It’s fair to say there were some skeptics and that’s exactly what we wanted to see.”

The Leeds citizens' jury. Photo: Leeds Climate Commission

The Leeds citizens' jury. Photo: Leeds Climate Commission

The jurors’ top priority - agreed unanimously - was transport, with the demand that bus provision be brought under public control. They wanted to take “extensive positive action [...] to make the use of private cars a last resort for transportation”.

Plus 86 per cent of the jury decided it was wrong to expand Leeds Bradford Airport.

Jurors said: “Residents should block expansion and be educated about the impact on the carbon footprint.”

And they urged Leeds City Council to block any new road-building or selling of land to develop.

The airport plans to double passenger numbers to eight million by 2030, and works will include a £100m access road to the airport.

Education in schools, exploring funding options, and more devolved powers to help the region take on the climate emergency were also recommended.

Prof Gouldson added: “Although the jury is a small sample of the public of Leeds, it is a representative sample, and the results can be relied upon to give crucial insights into the way that people in Leeds think about climate change and what we should do about it.

“As an independent voice in the city, the Leeds Climate Commission has agreed that its activities will be guided by these recommendations in the years to come, and Leeds City Council has agreed to formally respond to the recommendations.

“Some of the recommendations are undoubtedly challenging – but responding to climate change is a massive challenge, and our response has to be actively guided by the people of the city.”

Prof Gouldson said at the beginning six people had said they were very concerned about the environment, six had said they were not concerned about climate change.

But by the end, after 30 hours of deliberation, one juror said: “From the start - I hadn’t realised how serious the problem was.”

Another said: “My opinion grew and grew on the seriousness of the situation more and more until now I am very annoyed.”

A statement from the jury said: “Climate change is not someone else’s problem. It won’t go away or get better if we ignore it. We are facing a climate change emergency - immediate and urgent action is required.

“Everyone – from Leeds City Council, individuals, politicians, businesses, community groups, and other organisations - has their part to play.

“Every action counts.

“We are a diverse group, unified in our passion to resolve this issue. We have had the opportunity to challenge our own and each other’s preconceptions. We have concluded that we are at a crisis point.

“We believe our recommendations can make Leeds a better place to live as well as addressing climate change.

“We don’t have all the answers but we hope that our recommendations will go some way towards tackling the problem.

“Leeds led the world in the industrial revolution - we believe the city can now lead an environmental revolution.”