York ‘gave up’ on climate emergency – city will not reach net zero goal

YORK will not reach its goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2030 with its current action plan, according to board documents.

Climate activists called on climate change adviser Cllr Paula Widdowson to take bolder steps when an update on progress from the City of York Council was discussed Wednesday.

Nearly £345m of investment from various sources has been committed to respond to the climate emergency in York, but the board admits more money will be needed.

The authority has listed around 60 actions in eight ‘themes’ that are currently complete, in progress or in the feasibility stage, but these alone will not be enough to achieve net zero carbon.

Kate Ravilious, a freelance science journalist, said: “We are in the midst of a climate emergency and the science could not be clearer about the need for action.

“Three years ago, the council committed to a net zero city by 2030 and yet this climate action update confesses that the current action plan will not achieve net zero ambition. Why is this council giving up before we even start?”

The council’s draft climate change strategy was criticized by members of the Green, Liberal Democrat and Labor parties when it was discussed last month. The final document should be completed in October.

According to university-supported research, the areas of York with the highest average carbon footprint per person are parts of Bishopthorpe, Copmanthorpe and Dringhouses and Woodthorpe, Cllr Widdowson’s own ward.

Activist Geoff Beacon said, “We need a significant amount of advertising and spending to tell the worst offenders… that they should do better.”

Chris Copland, a Fishergate resident and environment coordinator at York Labour, said: “We must seek a long-standing compromise and consensus that is above partisan politics.”

Cllr Widdowson said the climate change strategy has a 10-year vision and said current actions will build on the coming years.

She added: “The activity is not limited to, but includes: moving all of the municipality’s energy to renewable energy…replacing all of the municipality’s under three and a half ton vehicles with electric vehicles within the next three years; a massive increase in EV (electric vehicle) charging capacity across the city; creating the largest community forest in England [and] significant flood scheme activity that is protecting more than 2,000 properties.”

York deputy labor leader Cllr Pete Kilbane said the council’s plans “lack of political ambition”. Many of the council’s actions on investment and carbon savings were listed as ‘to be confirmed’ or ‘not applicable’, said Cllr Kilbane.

He added: “You get the feeling that figures were thrown in to try to enlarge the figures around.

“What this bulletin shows is a failure to address the climate change crisis that the city is facing.”

Claire Foale, assistant director of policy and strategy, said: “It is worth noting that this is the beginning of an action plan. We believe that this is the baseline and sets the priorities that will become the mid- to long-term action plan that will respond and take us through 2030.”

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