Our local council doesn’t often address global emergencies - but this month, it did exactly that. Taking a stand alongside other local councils such as Leeds, York and Otley, Harrogate Borough Council voted unanimously to take steps to help address the global climate emergency.
Council Leader, Coun Richard Cooper, proposed the motion “supporting measures to address the climate emergency outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” - and he spoke passionately of our need to conserve the district for the younger generation.
The unanimous vote showed just how strongly councillors of all parties felt. And it showed a sense of leadership and unity from across the council that we can be proud of.
But what can our local council actually do?
They have proposed 23 different options, like solar panels on top of council car parks, more energy-efficient new builds and pedestrianising Harrogate town centre. The most significant proposal, however, is to take a lead on establishing a district-wide “climate coalition”.
According to the IPCC, becoming carbon neutral requires “rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. Simply put, Harrogate Council doesn’t have the reach or the funds to do it alone.
It’s time for collaborative working, from businesses, community groups and the public sector.
In Leeds, there’s just such a collaboration. The Leeds Climate Commission launched in September 2017 with the strapline, “Enabling climate action in a can-do city” - and it has shared good practice, is supporting organisations to finance transition and has just published a “carbon roadmap” for Leeds.
This roadmap, prepared with expertise from the University of Leeds, reveals the task ahead. As a district, we have to think about how much greenhouse gas we can emit without tipping our world into runaway climate change. We need to assess how fast we are using up our carbon “budget”. For Leeds this carbon budget to 2050 is estimated at approximately 42m tonnes.
The good news is that emissions in Leeds have fallen by 43 per cent in the last 14 years. But the city’s estimated greenhouse gas emissions are still 3.95m tonnes CO2e a year, so that total budget to 2050 will have been spent in just nine years. Rapid action is required now.
A Harrogate district climate coalition will need a its own roadmap, with measures far more radical than the odd electric car charging point or a bit more recycling.
We can all play our part now, by making simple choices to reduce our personal carbon footprint. Making those choices known and sharing your views also helps to shape public opinion.
For example, please contribute to the current NYCC Traffic Congestion Review Consultation for Harrogate and Knaresborough, at www.northyorks.gov.uk/harrogate-congestion-engagement
There are some great sustainable transport ideas – but also a bypass/relief road proposal, which would increase traffic and make us burn our carbon budget faster.
With barely a decade to radically reduce our carbon emissions, planning anything other than sustainable transport measures to reduce car use is reckless.
If your community group or business would like to join the Climate Coalition or you would like to support Zero Carbon Harrogate get in touch.