Climate targets ‘challenging’ without more government help - Leeds Council

Leeds City Council has a “challenge” when it comes to meeting its target of becoming a net zero carbon city by 2030, a meeting has heard.

Monday, 27th September 2021, 4:45 am

Following the council’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2019, it made ambitious commitments to become a 100 per cent green economy over the next decade.

But, during a meeting of Leeds City Council’s audit committee, a council officer claimed that, despite the authority’s best efforts, meeting those targets would be difficult due to a lack of funding and policy intervention from central government.

During a discussion about the council’s climate emergency committee, the authority’s chief air quality officer Polly Cook said: “The climate emergency agenda is progressing and changing very quickly. Part of the role of the governance is to be outward looking, and work with other cities, and to understand what others are doing and look to improve on our own process and systems.

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Leeds City Council has a “challenge” when it comes to meeting its target of becoming a net zero carbon city by 2030, a meeting has heard.

“We need to be aware of national policy changes. With COP26 on the horizon, we think there will be policy changes coming in and it’s important that we have a good understanding of that.”

COP26 is a UN climate change conference that is set to take place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12. Its main to secure global net zero carbon by “mid-century”, and it is hoped that some of the world’s biggest economies can agree on some important commitments.

Coun Mike Foster (Con) asked whether the council had received sufficient funding from government to meet its targets.

Ms Cook responded: “If you are talking about sufficient funding to hit net zero, then the answer would be no. There is still a lot of work to do and projects to work through.

“In terms of the funding we have received, it has been sufficient for specific projects. At the moment, funding is one of the big shortfalls in terms of the climate emergency.

“Not just funding but also policy. Some of that funding will have to come from the private sector and some private individuals, in terms of the decisions that they make.

“There will be quite a few asks that are beyond our direct remit and control in the council.

“It’s very challenging to hit net zero by 2030. But we have always said, from the moment we made the declaration, that there are other things that need to happen. It’s not all within our direct control. the councils emissions are still relatively low. It is about how we engage with citizens and government to bring about policy changes.

“It’s not just what we directly deliver, it’s about how we deliver that. We are already seeing changes.”

Earlier this month, the chair of Leeds City Council’s climate emergency committee Coun Neil Walshaw called the entire UK to “mobilise” in an effort to urgently meet climate change targets in an effort to avoid environmental catastrophe.

But Coun Foster said he was worried the larger climate change agenda could be missing more immediate concerns such as blocked drainage systems causing flooding, and that resources could be better used.

Ms Cook said: “We put very little council resource into the climate emergency, but we are very good at securing external finance which can’t be used for the specific purpose you describe.

“If we didn’t have that, we would be left behind as a city, because others would be securing that funding. Things such as the flooding will ultimately get worse if we don’t play our part in keeping the climate at 1.5 degrees (increase).”