New commission aims to shield Yorkshire from another 'brutal' energy transition in bid to tackle climate emergency

Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing Yorkshire and the Humber in coming years, it has been warned, as the largest regional commission in the UK to tackle the crisis was launched.

A new climate commission, to be launched this evening, will act as an independent advisory group which will tell Westminster how best the region can respond to the threats brought about by the climate emergency such as flooding, heatwaves, and sea level rise.

And the commission’s new director said that Yorkshire “knows all too well what a brutal energy transition feels like from 30 years ago and the last thing we want to do is repeat any aspect of that”.

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The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission brings together a team of climate leaders from across the public, private and third sectors, in the largest regional commission of its kind in the UK.

File photo of solar panels in floodwater in East Cowick,Yorkshire. Photo: PA
File photo of solar panels in floodwater in East Cowick,Yorkshire. Photo: PA

Chaired by Liz Barber, chief executive of Yorkshire Water, the commission aims to help the region reduce its carbon emissions as quickly as possible, and ensure that people in Yorkshire are prepared to cope with the growing impacts of climate change

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, who will speak at tonight’s launch, said: “The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s approach recognises the importance of both reducing emissions and helping people prepare for climate shocks.

“By 2050, there will be 59 per cent more winter rainfall and summer temperatures are set to be up to 7.4 degrees hotter. Preparing infrastructure and enhancing nature to deal with these changes will bring jobs to communities throughout the county. At COP26, the work of this Commission could serve as an example of what green recovery looks like.”

While Ms Barber added: “We have much to do and will need to work quickly to ensure that Yorkshire has a well developed and coordinated action plan to respond to the changes in our climate which are having such a dramatic effect.

“It is however not just about speed, it is really important that we work in an inclusive way to ensure that we engage a real cross section of Yorkshire and the Humber and bring people along with us. Working alongside the climate leaders on the Commission, our work panels will enable us to involve a huge range of people with different perspectives and opinions.”

The commission is made up of a chair, four vice-chairs, a director, and 27 commissioners, from a wide range of sectors.

And its work will be based on the principles of inclusivity and a ‘just transition’ to help to ensure that no-one and no-where is left behind as Yorkshire and the Humber switches to a net-zero economy. It will also ensure that climate actions are sustainable and bring benefits to nature and local wildlife.

Professor Andy Gouldson, from the University of Leeds, has been appointed as director of the new commission.

He said: “There's a massive fairness and inclusion aspect to this. Yorkshire knows all too well what a brutal energy transition feels like from 30 years ago and the last thing we want to do is repeat any aspect of that. It's really important in this low carbon transition that people are brought with us and there's no one and nowhere left behind in that process.

“That means identifying the areas and the communities and the businesses and the people who will struggle to adapt to these new climate targets, and helping them to feel some of the benefits of switching to becoming a more climate-friendly region."

And he added: “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing Yorkshire and the Humber in the coming years.

"Part of the logic of the commission is absolutely to speak for Yorkshire to Westminster and say what we need from national government to enable them to deliver on their promises and us to play our part in it."

Flooding has been perhaps the most visible caused by climate change in Yorkshire in recent years, and Prof Gouldson said: "I think it is impacting people's lives in a very real way. Obviously for some people very acutely.

“Every year there are more and more intense and frequent flooding events. The minimum we need to do is get ready for more of those because we're locked into a pathway where we'll have more of that in the future. It's crazy not to get ready and plan ahead and work out what the best things are that we can do to avoid and manage the impacts of those.

“We [Yorkshire] emit more than I think is seven or eight EU member states, as a region, and we need to do our bit to reduce our emissions to remove the climate change that's leading to those flooding events."

But he said there is also support for energy-intensive industries to decarbonise and improve, and that building a carbon capture storage around Drax would be an example of a beneficial move.

The creation of this new body has the support of the Yorkshire and Humber Leaders Board and the region’s 22 councils.

It comes as it was announced a green tech project in the Humber has been awarded more than £21m to turn the region into a net zero cluster by 2040.

The Zero Carbon Humber Partnership will recieve the funding from the Government’s Industrial Decarbonisation Challenge to deliver H2H Saltend, one of the world’s first at-scale low carbon hydrogen production plants on the north bank of the Humber.

It will also provide CO2 and hydrogen pipelines enabling industrial sites and power stations to switch to hydrogen and/or capture and transport their emissions.

A further £12m will be awarded to project Humber Zero which plans to decarbonise the industrial complex at Immingham by creating a carbon capture and hydrogen hub, providing cost-effective and low carbon energy supply and storage opportunities to industry and the National Grid.

With the Humber region creating 40 per cent of the UK’s industrial emissions, these projects aim to capture 25m tonnes of carbon every year.

The commission will launch online from 6.30pm tonight, to register visit yorksandhumberclimate.org.uk/event/launch-yorkshire-and-humber-climate-commission