Kirklees Council claims it is “ahead of the curve” when it comes to tackling climate change. The borough is set to reach its goal of becoming net zero and climate ready by 2038.
In 2019, Kirklees Council declared a climate emergency and the target for the borough to become net zero by 2038 was set. The council responded with its ‘Phase 1’ approach which saw a series of immediate actions taken to address climate change. This included a £1M investment in electric vehicles for the Council fleet, converting 52,000 streetlights to energy-efficient LEDs, and tree planting projects.
The Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) signifies the commencement of ‘Phase 2’ and was unveiled at the latest cabinet meeting by Councillor Will Simpson, Cabinet Member for Culture and Greener Kirklees. He said, “The Action Plan is the next step in our action planning journey and sets out a long-list of 206 actions for Kirklees to achieve a net zero and climate ready district by 2038, in concert with other organisations, individuals and regional and national government.”
“It is also not a firm list of financial commitments from now until 2038, or a list of instructions – this will come with the follow up work and action of ‘version 2’ of the plan, after we have prioritised these actions to those that achieve the maximum benefits and cost effectiveness.”
Cllr Simpson went on to say, “An important element of the plan is that we prioritise both mitigation and adaptation equally, instead of a bias often found towards mitigation and emissions reduction.”
“This takes us ahead of the curve relative to many other local authorities and will help the district adapt to the current impacts of climate change as well as reducing our future impact.”
The CCAP’s scope was said to be “district-wide” with actions designed to be taken by not only the council but also by key partners and the wider community. Some of the suggested actions include switching to renewable energy tariffs, buying sustainably and locally produced food, and choosing walking, cycling, or public transport for short journeys.
Councillor Naheed Mather (Labour, Dalton) said that she was pleased to see the report at cabinet. She added, “I’m also very keen for everybody to know this isn’t just the council’s responsibility. It is all of our responsibility and in partnership, this authority will achieve its targets by 2038.”
After thanking Cllr Simpson and the officers working on the report, Leader of the Council Shabir Pandor said, with a Labour Government, net zero aims would be achieved more quickly. He said, “can you imagine once we get into government, the amount of work we will be able to do, so I think that 2038 target is for us, but I think if Labour gets into power, we’ll actually far achieve a lot more and we’ll bring that 2038 target more and more forward in achieving it a lot quicker.”
However, Councillor John Lawson (Lib Dems, Cleckheaton) questionned the impact that the current financial crisis could have on the delivery of the CCAP. He asked Cllr Simpson whether it was envisaged that the target of becoming net zero by 2038 would be pushed back as a result of financial difficulties.
In response, Cllr Simpson said, “we’re in really difficult financial circumstances, however, I would say, even before Kwasi Kwarteng’s fantastic budget and the economic crisis that we’re in occurred, as a council we weren’t going to be able to do this on our own.”
“We need action from Government at a national level and we also need them to provide us with the capital and revenue funding and that we need not just to deliver on the climate emergency but other services as well but to make sure that we get down the emissions pathway that’s outlined in the document. That was never something we would be able to do from council capital and revenue alone.
“The situation we’re in now makes that situation even more difficult and of course, there are pressures on the council in other areas as well so it does become incredibly difficult and we’re still reliant on the government as a partner if we’re going to make that. But it’s not impossible and it’s certainly not my intention to move the target to anything less ambitious.
“We know from the emissions pathway about what is scientifically possible and achievable for us as a council and the level of our ambition matches that. We want to do everything that we can as quickly as we can and the emissions pathway outlines that.
The Cllr concluded by saying, “the cost of not taking action is much greater than the upfront cost of dealing with it, not just for us but for our residents as well.”
The CCAP was endorsed by the cabinet and will go to the next full council meeting in December where it is recommended for approval.