Leeds has ‘plenty of climate change Donald Trumps’, claims councillor

A senior Leeds councillor has suggested that there are “plenty of Donald Trumps” among Leeds’s older population when it comes to climate change in the city.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 3:14 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 3:16 pm

The remarks came during a discussion on future plans to tackle carbon emissions in the city, and what the city can do for future generations.

It follows Leeds City Council’s climate emergency announcement last year, while the authority now plans to introduce measures including vegan school dinners and a clean air charging zone to help combat its carbon footprint.

And while Coun John Illingworth (Lab) praised the willingness of children to make changes in order to safeguard the environment for future generations, he added he was ‘profoundly alarmed’ by many elders were not prepared to alter their lifestyles.

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Coun Illingworth claimed he meets many people who refuse to change.

He told a meeting of the council’s children’s scrutiny committee: “It seems to me that there is a huge age difference in understanding about the climate issue. Young people are better informed and appreciate the seriousness of the situation than older adults.

“I am 74 at the moment – but I meet, among older people, plenty of Donald Trumps – plenty of people who do not want to engage, don’t want to make any adjustments at all and do not see it as necessary.

“I find it profoundly alarming and I will do my best to counter it, but it’s one person against thousands.”

The comments came during a discussion on the authority’s ‘best council plan refresh’, which outlines the organisation’s plans and ambitions for the city over the next four years.

Responding to Coun Illingworth, Coun Ann Forsaith (Green) warned ‘unpopular decisions’ would have to be made over the coming years to combat climate change in the city.

She said: “You are quite right about the situation we are in.

“We knew 20 years ago what the problem was – it is not being dealt with fast enough. This is an emergency, and something needs to be happen quickly. Some of the decisions that are going to have to be made will be unpopular.”

Fellow committee member Tony Britton said: “One of the biggest problems facing this city is the air pollution situation. Particularly small children, who are the same level of exhaust pipes in buses. Who can do anything about it? Parents can do something about it by walking their children to school.

“Cities can do something about it, by unclogging the confusion we have got. As an asthma sufferer, any small child breathing in exhaust fumes, they are asking for problems with their health and also the cost of their health.”

Chairing the meeting, Coun Alan Lamb said: “We come here because we want the best for children and young people in our city, and having clean air to breathe and clean streets for them and their children, I can’t imagine anything more important than that.”

As part of attempts to combat climate change, the council plans to introduce a clean air charging zone on high-polluting vehicles, such as old buses and HGVs, for areas in and around the city centre at some point this summer.