A climate action plan for Yorkshire and the Humber finds that the region will have used up its share of the global carbon budget consistent with a “good chance” of staying within 1.5 °C of warming – the focus of COP26 currently taking place in Glasgow – within just six years if urgent action is not taken now.
The Yorkshire and Humber Climate Action Plan, published today (Wednesday 10 November), calls for meaningful climate leadership from larger institutions in government and the public and private sectors to deliver “significant, tangible contributions” to help tackle the climate and ecological emergency.
Fostering shared responsibility, moving from targets and planning to action, and putting climate and nature at the heart of all areas of decision making are three of the key recommendations from the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, which also commits to undertake a raft of ambitious actions itself.
It also stresses the need for Yorkshire and Humber to be “climate ready” to face increasing risks from climate change, stating that not acting with the required urgency and ambition will both prolong the region’s contribution to the problem and worsen local impacts.
The Climate Action Plan has been developed with the input of more than 500 people and is being presented at the Yorkshire Post Climate Change Summit in Leeds on 10 November, which has been co-organised with the Commission.
Andy Gouldson, Director of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission and Professor of Environmental Policy at the University of Leeds, will set out the report in an hour-long session with other Commissioners.
Prof Gouldson said:
“As a Commission we have brought together climate leaders from all sorts of organisations and groups, and we have worked extensively with stakeholders from across the region to develop this plan. It’s been a mammoth undertaking, but it’s hugely important that people are involved in the process and we are very happy with the outcome.
“We now have to start the really hard work, which for us as a Commission is to tackle a set of specific actions over the next two and a half years. We’re playing our part, but we need the region as a whole to step up and get behind the delivery of the plan.”
Included in the report’s 50 actions are calls for a fair and inclusive transition, the integration of climate and nature into the curriculum in schools, the development of jobs and skills, the promotion of green finance and investment and the inclusion of emissions from aviation and shipping in the region’s net zero target.
While delivering a stark warning about the need to prepare for worsening impacts, it also offers hope that dealing with the connected climate and nature crises can help to transform Yorkshire and Humber into a happier, healthier, fairer and more prosperous place to live and work.
Liz Barber, Chief Executive of Yorkshire Water and Chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission, said:
“The publication of this action plan is a significant first step for the Commission in guiding the region’s response to the climate and ecological emergency.
“Of paramount importance to this response is a commitment to achieve a just transition as we move to a green economy. Climate change impacts more on disadvantaged communities and it is critical that we make sure that our efforts reduce rather than exacerbate existing inequalities.”
Support for the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s Climate Action Plan has come from the Yorkshire Leaders Board, which includes the leaders and chief executives of all of the local and combined authorities across the region.
In a joint statement, Yorkshire Leaders Board co-Chairs Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, and Cllr 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.
“Going forward, 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.”
Fifty actions to drive change
Fifty actions are outlined in the Climate Action Plan, designed to help build the region’s resilience against climate disasters and help achieve the region’s 2038 net zero target, which specifies the need for “significant progress” by 2030.
Other key actions included in the Commission’s “Framework for Change” include:
- Developing a positive vision
- Improve skills and create jobs in the green economy
- Accelerating investment
- Nurturing collaboration and innovation
- Protecting and restoring nature
- Developing a sustainable progress index for the region that is not based solely on GDP
- Influencing national government.
The strong emphasis on climate resilience underscores the need to plan ahead so that we can cope and recover quickly when climate risks become reality. Among its recommendations on this are:
- Develop climate risk communications for different audiences
- Encourage the wider adoption of area-wide and site-specific climate adaptation plans and actions
- Promote resilience in land use by restoring and enhancing the region’s many key natural assets
- Prepare the food and farming sector for current and future changes
- Promote nature-based solutions and blue-green infrastructure
- Develop a regional network for climate readiness and resilience training
- Promote the provision and uptake of affordable, comprehensive flood insurance
- Strengthen plans for the long-term management of change and loss caused by sea level rise
- Develop a whole of society approach to emergency response.
On net zero, the plan points out that Yorkshire and the Humber region directly emits 7.5% of UK emissions, which is more than countries like Croatia, Slovenia or Cyprus. We can “do our bit” by a range of actions, including:
- Put the primary emphasis on reducing demand for all types of energy
- Support the greatly accelerated decarbonisation of energy supply
- Deliver ambitious retrofit for housing, with a major focus on reducing fuel poverty
- Minimise the impact and maximise the contribution of new developments
- Promote public transport through the wider development of mass-transit schemes
- Minimise the need for private car ownership
- Minimise the impacts of aviation by promoting alternative forms of travel and changing the behaviours of the small percentage (14%) that take the most (70%) of flights
- Focus economic development, business support and training on greening the region’s economy
- Promote changes in planning that put climate and nature at the heart of the design and delivery of local plans.
In addition to the 50 recommended actions for the region, the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission has outlined specific actions that it plans to work on. These include:
- Developing a Citizens’ Forum to enable diverse voices to shape the climate debate, and explore ways of developing a regional network of Community Climate Champions
- Enhance access to climate outreach and carbon literacy for everyone in the region, and develop an online, open access Climate Leadership Programme
- Bring forward a Climate Leaders’ Pledge to promote ambitious actions in key organisations across the region
- Work with the finance sector to explore ways to develop a climate and nature finance platform for the region
- Work to develop an outline strategy for nature-based solutions and blue-green infrastructure for the region, and explore ways of developing a Yorkshire and Humber Nature Service
- Develop a regional climate observatory to assess risks, analyse policies and scan for best practice and develop a Sustainable Progress Index
- Develop a regional area energy plan and support the development of smart energy networks and community energy initiatives
- Press national government for policies to deliver regional climate ambitions.
Support from Yorkshire mayors
South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis will be speaking at the Summit on the regional relevance of the global climate agenda. 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 with a welcome from Yorkshire. 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.”
The all-day Summit at the Royal Armouries in Leeds will be hosted by journalist and broadcaster Christine Talbot. Key sessions from the Yorkshire Climate Summit will be livestreamed and available to watch for free via the event website. The Summit runs from 9.15am to 4.30pm, with the Climate Action Plan being presented by Commissioners from 10.00-11.00am.
The is available to watch for free on the Yorkshire Post Climate Change Summit website: https://www.yorkshireclimatechange.co.uk/live/
The Climate Action Plan will be available to download from 10 November on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission’s website, https://yorksandhumberclimate.org.uk/climate-action-plan.