‘Radical reductions’ needed in carbon-use in Leeds, experts claim

Individuals in Leeds need to make “radical reductions” in their carbon usage, experts and politicians in the city have warned.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 6:00 am

The head of a voluntary organisation that campaigns for climate action in the city said carbon emissions had nearly halved in Leeds since the year 2000, but that far more needed to be done for it to meet its own climate targets.

Members of Leeds City Council’s Climate Emergency Committee said that residents would need to look at their own carbon usage in the coming years.

The council announced a climate emergency in early 2019, which led to ambitious plans for the city to be net carbon-zero – where carbon emissions are balanced out by carbon removal methods, such as tree planting – by 2030.

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Experts have warned individuals will need to make sacrifices in their carbon usage.

This is 20 years before the Government’s 2050 target for the whole of the UK, with the ambitions brought into sharp focus by the recent in-principle approval of Leeds Bradford Airport’s £150m rebuild.

Andy Gouldson, chairman of the Leeds Climate Commission, presented panel members with a ‘roadmap’ to help avoid climate catastrophe, adding: “Recent events around the airport have clarified the need to be clear about the scope of the emissions we are talking about.

“This roadmap only considers our direct fuel use in the city – fuel, gas and electric directly used in the city. That is not to downplay wider emissions at all, but the norm in all circumstances is that towns and cities only look at scope one and two.

“For our footprint, we were nearly 45 percent down, pre-Covid – in 2019 our emissions were 42 or 43 percent down on what they were in 2000. This is significant progress, but not enough.

“We predict they will continue to drift downwards, but emissions will eventually flat-line through to 2050, when actually we need to get to net zero as early as possible.”

Carbon emissions can be caused by general energy usage, such as heating or lighting your home with gas or electric, as well as transport, with the personal car contributing more per user than public transport.

Other more indirect effects include eating meat and dairy, as well as foods shipped from far away regions, as these areas of the food industry use more energy. Taking foreign holidays can also add to the total, with air travel one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.

Mr Gouldson predicted that Leeds’s carbon budget – the amount of emissions it can allow to happen in order to remain carbon-zero – is currently 31 million tonnes of carbon by 2050.

He added: “At the moment our emissions are around four million tonnes a year, meaning we would have used up our share of the budget by 2029.

“We need to make those radical reductions, that is clear.

“During lockdown last year, we predicted our emissions were 43 percent lower than they would normally have been. Lockdown isn’t the way to reduce our carbon emissions, but it does give you some indication.”

Speaking later during the meeting, panel member Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con) said: “How do we sell this to the public? Everyone knows why we should do it, but whether we practice what we preach is a different thing.

“We are currently locked down now, but once the lockdown is lifted, will we all increase our (carbon use) at once?

“With air travel, will all the good that’s been done be undone with people who are already booking holidays which are currently illegal?”

Coun Ann Forsaith (Green) said: “We need to lead by example as councillors – I am a car and an electric bike owner, I’ll hold my hand up. But there is an enormous amount to do.

“We have a massive task – but we all need to make sure we are working together – this is about our city – this is about Leeds.

Chair of the climate emergency committee Coun Neil Walshaw added that the problem did not necessarily lie with those taking one or two flights per year, but on those “flying once a month” and “taking several city breaks a year”.

“The carbon-intensity of that is frightening,” he added. “We need a national approach on this – it’s only going to be tackled on a national level.”