3 year anniversary of Kirklees ‘Climate Emergency’ declaration

Campaigners marking the 3 year anniversary of the Kirklees Climate Emergency Declaration January 2022

Climate Emergency UK and Huddersfield Friends of the Earth assess progress made since 2019

This month (January 2022) has seen the 3rd anniversary of Kirklees’ declaration of ‘Climate Emergency’ in 2019. Kirklees Council, like all others across West Yorkshire agreed to achieve ‘Net Zero’ carbon dioxide emissions by 2038. Climate Emergency UK has just published scorecards for all local councils based on their climate action plans and gave Kirklees 0% out of 100% because the Council has yet to publish a climate action plan. Huddersfield Friends of the Earth (Huddersfield FoE) has undertaken an audit of the Council’s response to the climate emergency, weighing up the positives and negatives over the last three years, overall finding it ‘wholly inadequate’.

Friends of the Earth groups across West Yorkshire will be campaigning over the next months for action on carbon reduction to be radically improved and accelerated by individual local West Yorkshire councils and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA). In the early months of 2019, the five West Yorkshire district councils and the WY Combined Authority passed resolutions declaring a ‘climate emergency’: in Bradford (15th January), Kirklees (16th January), Calderdale (30th January), Leeds (27th March), Wakefield (23rd May), and WYCA (27th June). These declarations were aligned with decisions that the WY authorities should achieve Net Zero at an earlier target year than the 2050 date set by the national government: 2038, or 2030 for Leeds.

To mark the 3rd anniversary of the WY declarations, the Friends of the Earth local groups in each district are making an assessment of what progress has been made since, recognising the ever-increasing urgency of responding to climate change, and that only actions count. This is part of ongoing campaigning around WY Mayor Tracy Brabin’s Climate & Environmental Plan published in October 2021. This in turn is a response to the WYCA carbon emissions reduction pathways (CERP)* study of July 2020, which identified the huge scale of decarbonisation that has to be achieved.

Kirklees positives since 2019

  • The Clean Green elements of the Council Plan 2021-2 include positive steps towards Passivhaus housing developments, electrification of the council’s vehicle fleet and tree-planting.
  • The Council has supported the launch of an independent Kirklees Climate Commission
  • The Council has made a statement that it supports the divestment from fossil fuels of the West Yorkshire Pension Fund within three years, and will exert its pressure on WYPF to make this happen.

Kirklees negatives since 2019

  • There is as yet no climate action plan with measurable targets for cutting carbon within Kirklees. A roadmap is scheduled to be launched in June 2022 but Huddersfield FoE believes this is well overdue and will be scrutinising its targets and timescales closely.
  • There is no evidence of demonstrable carbon emission cuts within Kirklees over the last 3 years since the declaration was made.
  • Various schemes increasing highway capacity across Kirklees, funded by WY Combined Authority, are still being pursued which are is likely to encourage more road carbon emissions in the 2020s.
  • Kirklees has not yet challenged insufficient WY level action, particularly on transport. The FoE audit of the Mayor’s climate plan (appended) has demonstrated that failed transport decarbonisation would collapse the entire WY climate emergency response.

Chayley Collis, Coordinator of Huddersfield Friends of the Earth commented:

“With the third anniversary of those climate emergency declarations we all need to ask what has actually been achieved as the climate clock has ticked down through those 3 years, and will Kirklees and the Mayor’s Plan now accelerate actions across the 2020s in order to achieve its target of Net Zero?”

“We’ve done an audit of decisions taken in the 3 years since the climate emergency was declared, and, whilst there are both positive and negative developments, overall we have found that Kirklees Council’s response to the climate emergency has been wholly inadequate”.

In particular, Huddersfield Friends of the Earth points to Kirklees’ current road expansion plans at Cooper Bridge and the A629 Halifax Road (Phase 5).

Chayley Collis commented:

“Increasing highway capacity around the district is likely to encourage more road emissions in the 2020s. Cutting down trees as part of these road expansion plans adds insult to injury.  The council’s policies should be supporting our response to climate emergency, not undermining it.

At the West Yorkshire level, the problem is even bigger. Emissions from transport alone, the largest sector, have to be reduced by 250,000 tonnes a year. If that fails to happen, West Yorkshire’s response to climate emergency would collapse.”

Louise Garrett from Huddersfield Friends of the Earth added:

The Kirklees Council response since 2019 has been inadequate because: it hasn’t yet produced and action plan or faced up to the quantitative scale of carbon reductions needed; its transport strategy contradicts its climate strategy; and like other WY councils it needs to demand greater ambition & urgency at the WYCA level.

How will it be possible to tackle the climate crisis and achieve the enormous scale of annual emissions reductions required in the 2020s if WYCA and individual WY councils take this long just to prepare their Action Plans? Imagine if national and local governments had responded at this pace to COVID, yet climate collapse represents an even greater threat to humanity than the pandemic.

We know that Kirklees Council is trying hard, within the district and alongside Metro Mayor Tracy Brabin, to bring forward plans to tackle climate change. Our audits have revealed however that their proposed actions would be too little, too late.

Huddersfield FoE and campaigners across the region will not accept this situation at either the Kirklees or West Yorkshire level. We will be campaigning with others for more urgent action throughout this ‘3rd anniversary’ year.”

Notes for the editor

*CERP’s ‘Maximum Ambition’ pathway for WY requires that carbon dioxide emissions of 11.1m tonnes in 2020 fall to 5.1Mt in 2030: a reduction of 6 million tonnes (-57%) in just 10 years – so more than 500,000 tonnes every year. Whilst some emissions sectors, both nationally and locally, have been reducing systematically under the Climate Change Act process, others have not. The worst offender by far is transport where WY emissions in 2019 (pre-Covid) were actually higher than a decade earlier; as a result transport’s share of an otherwise shrinking WY carbon budget has risen since 2005 from 29% to 40%.

Climate Emergency UK scorecards: https://councilclimatescorecards.uk/

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