Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission launched to realise vision for climate action18 March 2021
Katie Privett, Energy Programme Lead for the York & North Yorkshire LEP attended the virtual launch event. Read her summary of this important event to create region-wide climate resilience.
Yesterday (17th March, 2021) was an important day for York & North Yorkshire as we learnt that local authorities, schools, hospitals and universities in our region were successful in securing £24.5m from the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme to reduce carbon emissions on their estates.
Also on this day, the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission was launched to an audience of over 400 virtual attendees. North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les and Harrogate District Council Chief Executive Wallace Sampson opened proceedings by providing the background for the commission’s inception and the importance of unifying, bipartisan collaboration. The Commission’s new chair Liz Barber of Yorkshire Water then gave a clear outline of the Commission’s role, recognising the need to be distinctive, fair and inclusive. She highlighted the group’s wide-ranging membership, sourced from diverse organisations from the public, private and third sectors. The Commission will have a role in guiding and tracking the ambition of the region, reviewing progress against the target, and seeing up a range of panels to engage with underrepresented communities.
Lord Deben provided an enthusiastic endorsement of the Commission, and spoke to the dangers of not engaging fully with the climate crisis, reminding the audience “either we do something about it, or it will do something to us”. He pointed to the lack of interconnectivity of central government being a key blocker to progress, but nodded to the signs of change, such as the changing key purpose of the Bank of England to enable and deliver net zero by 2050. He also spoke of collaboration as a route to climate justice – global issues are not just solved globally, but also regionally, locally and individually.
After these introductory remarks, the event cycled through a dizzying array of influential and high-profile speakers, all of whom are newly appointed commissioners. The Environment Agency’s Emma Howard Boyd talked of Yorkshire & Humber being a beacon and guiding light for the rest of the world. Sheffield mayor Dan Jarvis pointed out that converting to a sustainable economy is not a cost to be borne, it’s an opportunity to be seized, and stressed the need for national government to invest resources that match the scale of the crisis.
Regional CBI director Beckie Hart and the TUC’s Bill Adams recognised the importance of businesses in making change, both as emitting organisations and livelihoods for people who must not be left behind in the transition. The importance of practical advice is often underestimated, and Beckie hoped the Commission can be a hub of best practice examples of our doorsteps to inspire further change. Bill reflected on how monumental that change is going to have to be, and how Yorkshire must learn from historical mistakes in industrial change, asserting that the transition must be just, must be informed by research for better decisions, and must ensure that no one is left behind.
Rachel Bice, chief executive at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, spoke of the need to learn from and work within the complexity of nature’s systems, creating a just transition not just for people, but also our natural environment. Emma Bridge of Community Energy England expanded on the need for an inclusive transition by highlighting that empowering communities towards resilience will help to address the root causes of climate change, not just the symptoms. She highlighted great examples of community energy in Yorkshire and Humber, including Whitby Esk Hydro and York Community Energy, and the vital role of individuals and communities in climate action – we will fail if we don’t bring people with us.
Alongside this cast of commissioners, the audience enjoyed a guest spot from Will Solomon from the Regional Youth Climate Assembly who shared the group’s latest video project in collaboration with students in South Africa, and a premier of the Commission’s promotional video.
The Commission’s director Andy Gouldson, dubbed by Lord Deben as “the father of climate commissions”, rounded off the speaker slots by musing on the importance of sharing – of responsibilities, resources, expertise and, perhaps most importantly, sharing a positive vision for the future.
With over 100 questions posed by attendees, Geri Scott of the Yorkshire Post guided the panel of commissioners through challenging questions such as how the Commission will approach the contentious expansion of the Leeds-Bradford Airport; how can citizens help with the Commission’s work; how best to communicate climate change impacts, and the Commission’s take on retrofitting the region’s leaky homes. Insightful responses included Bill Adams’s plea for workers to raise climate impacts of your industry and workplace with your boss – your concerns will be heard, because this is a serious campaign to get the job done. Liz Barber spoke to the balancing act of transparent information sharing aimed at inspiring action but avoiding triggering climate anxiety which can paralyse and disengage individuals. It was discussed that retrofitting homes is a perfect opportunity for a just climate transition, creating skilled jobs, saving carbon, reducing fuel poverty and cutting excess winter deaths – however, it needs significant financial support from government and private individuals who can afford to pay to drive the change. Rachel Bice neatly summed up the theme of the night – if we demonstrate that we’re using Yorkshire’s natural and social resources in the best way, we’ll make the change speak for itself.
Reflecting on the session as a whole, it was great to see such a diverse group of commissioners speak with such clarity of shared purpose and to hear about the Commission’s overall aims. It’s clear that the Commission’s work will complement that of the LEP, and I look forward to working with them on supporting businesses and communities, learning from their extensive experience and reach, and being able to deliver better targeted business support and policy advice based on the Commission’s findings. I will be watching with anticipation to see how the group makes progress on their aims, and look forward to seeing more detail begin to emerge – after all, they had only met for the first time that afternoon!
To watch the recording of the launch event, visit: Launch of the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission – YouTube
To find out more about the Commission, visit their website: https://yorksandhumberclimate.org.uk/
To find out more about the LEP’s work on Carbon Abatement Pathways and Circular Economy, visit: Creating a carbon negative circular economy | Business Inspired Growth