Leading in a climate emergency – a collaborative approach

The YNYER LEP take the lead on Yorkshire’s approach to the climate emergency
The beautiful and historic setting of the Merchant Taylors Hall in York was the location of the first York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (YNYER LEP) Local Authority focused workshop on addressing a climate emergency.

Local authority leaders and influencers across a variety of departments and locations came together to plan the lead for the climate emergency in their area and discuss this thought-provoking and action-seeking subject.

The workshops are part of the current activities by the Emerging Policy team at the Enterprise Partnership to achieve their 2030 vision for the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding area of ‘Thriving as a competitive, carbon neutral circular economy that benefits businesses, society and the planet.’

The YNYER LEP are leading the way to develop a collaborative approach to the areas actions on the climate change emergency. James Farrar, Chief Operating Officer of the YNYER LEP, opened the event uniting the delegates by stating that ‘we need to act now! To prepare… and set in motion activities and actions to achieve environmental carbon targets set by local and national government’.

Katie Thomas, Low Carbon and Circular Economy Lead and Katie Privett, Low Carbon Officer at the YNYER LEP introduced the LEPs strategy of a Carbon Neutral Circular Economy and the problems faced by the continue production of greenhouse gases at an alarming rate and consuming resources faster than the planet can replace them. Katie Privett took the opportunity to re-iterate the chilling fact that ‘the region’s carbon budget, forecast to last until 2100, at our current rate will be used in the next 6 years’ driving the sense of urgency to act now.

It is readily quoted in the media that more than half the UK’s local authorities have now declared a climate emergency, making it one of the fastest growing environmental movements in recent history. We have to consider however, that declaration is impressive but… we need to understand how we are going to achieve this.

The next step, action planning and taking the lead, was the challenge the workshop addressed and the day emphasised that the local authorities collaborating together is paramount. To use their vast resources to build a robust plan and make these challenging targets a reality.

Local authorities need to break the barriers to success (which are seen to include investment, uncertainty and lack of officer time and knowledge) and promote the benefits of investing in low carbon interventions. Understanding the challenges, including; how do we transform ‘dirty’ industries and grow ‘clean’ industries, and incentivising those businesses that are already doing or planning to do the ‘right thing’.

One key message of the day was that the nation currently has a ‘Take, Make and Dispose’ economy and we need to make the most of our infrastructure, resources and policies to support the development of a circular economy across the UK and specifically Yorkshire. Redesigning assets and decoupling economic activity from consumption of materials is central to good growth, a key tenet of LEP strategy moving forward, and reducing demand for resources, including energy, is the most efficient way of doing this.

National Government is now legislating on the topic of climate emergency, however existing policy is not enough to get where we want to be, local authorities need further direction and action to understand what powers, policies and resources need to be put in place.

There is an overall appreciation that urgent and wide scale change is needed in the energy sector. However we also need to acknowledge that the scope of the strategy needs to not only include energy and transport but all departments in local governments.

The Local Energy strategy supports local government to identify solutions in their region and the delegates understood that they need to consider how they adapt to climate change in each of their sector areas and stop it going further.

Alex Minshull, from Bristol City Council gave an advisory observation that more training on all levels of local government is required, ‘We don’t take staff into other emergencies without training them so why would we with this one’.

The day concluded with an introduction to the Tyndall Centre who support the setting of regional carbon budgets aligned with the Paris Agreement and Anthesis who help Local Authorities in climate planning processes with their introduction of the SCATTER Tool.

Jos Holmes, Senior Commissioning Officer at Ryedale District Council commented; ‘The day was a great success and gave a lot of evidence and examples of best practise for colleagues at Ryedale District Council, delivering our Climate Change Action Plan. The activities facilitated my understanding of how we can and must work together across the area, with neighbouring local authorities, our local communities and private businesses to develop the processes and projects to move towards low carbon and reducing global temperature rise.’

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