As world leaders gather in Poland for the COP24 international climate change conference, Leeds City Region could be on its way to becoming one of the world’s first zero carbon energy economies thanks to a new Energy Strategy adopted by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
In agreeing the strategy, the Combined Authority and LEP discussed their ambition for Leeds City Region to be the first UK city region to meet the Paris Climate Agreement targets and committed to further exploration of the detailed work required to achieve this.
Meeting the targets would take the City Region a long way towards partners’ ultimate goal of becoming a zero-carbon energy economy, as well as add £11 billion to the region’s economy and create 100,000 extra jobs through investment in clean energy.
Reducing carbon emissions and growing the region’s green economy has been a focus of City Region partners for the past decade and initiatives led by the LEP and Combined Authority have contributed to an overall 38 per cent reduction in carbon emissions in the City Region since 2005, compared to 27 per cent nationally.
These initiatives include support for businesses to reduce their waste, water and energy bills, measures to improve the energy efficiency of homes and combat fuel poverty, investment in local, low carbon energy schemes such as district heat networks and the introduction of low emission buses in partnership with local bus operators.
A new Energy Accelerator – the only one of its kind in the UK – will launch in the New Year, providing technical expertise to bring forward and identify funding for low carbon energy projects.
Together, these measures plus the initiatives identified in the new Leeds City Region Energy Strategy will take the City Region two thirds of the way towards meeting the Paris Climate Agreement targets. Now, the Combined Authority and LEP have committed to work to identify what the region needs to do to complete the final third.
Initiatives set out in the new Energy Strategy include the development of hydrogen buses, delivery of the landmark H21 project to convert the existing natural gas network in Leeds to hydrogen, the recently announced installation of ultra-low-emission vehicle charging points across West Yorkshire, and carbon capture storage (CCS) schemes, building on the pilot bioenergy CCS project at Drax in Selby.
Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the LEP and of the NP11 group of local enterprise partnerships across the North, said: “Leeds City Region’s long history of energy generation puts us in pole position to lead the UK’s transition to a zero carbon economy. Our region still generates 12 per cent of all UK electricity, a third of which now comes from low carbon or renewable sources.
“We are already leading by example as a City Region through the clean growth initiatives we’ve been delivering over a number of years, which are making businesses more productive and households better off as well as contributing to reductions in emissions.
“The third anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement is, however, a reminder that we still have a long way to go if we are to leave the planet in a better place for future generations. I am delighted, therefore, by the level of ambition City Region partners have shown in embracing our zero carbon goals.
“It is only through concerted, collective action that we will be able to deliver on this ambition, so I look forward to taking our plans to the next stage in collaboration with partners across Yorkshire and the North of England.”
Coun Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and Combined Authority Member, said: “Making Leeds City Region a zero carbon energy economy is a bold ambition, but if any region can deliver on this ambition it’s ours. Leeds has already been making great process on this agenda as a city, but by joining forces across the City Region our impact will be even greater.
“Our winning Channel 4 bid showed how much we can achieve when City Region partners come together, and we have a unique set of assets to help the UK meet its carbon reduction obligations – such as our energy infrastructure, our academic and industry expertise, our partnerships across the North, and significant grassroots community support.
“We’re already doing a huge amount, with the investments set out in our City Region Energy Strategy set to save the equivalent carbon of driving a car to the Moon and back over 16,000 times.
“Not only will this have huge benefits in terms of carbon reduction, it will also bring new opportunities to local people – in terms of increased job opportunities, better health as a result of improved air quality, and lower energy bills.”
As well as adopting the new Energy Strategy, the Combined Authority and LEP have also agreed a Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy. This sets out how City Region partners will make the most of the region’s amazing natural assets to help the economy prosper, improve quality of life for residents and make the region more resilient to climate change – including increased risk of flooding.
Three years on from the 2015 Boxing Day floods, 63,000 homes and more than 27,000 businesses remain at some risk of flooding despite significant investment by the Combined Authority, LEP, Government and other bodies.
Schemes that will move forward as a result of this strategy include natural flood management and peatland restoration programmes, additional investment in cycling and walking infrastructure, the development of the White Rose Forest as part of Government’s plans for a Northern Forest, and the development of agricultural and environmental policies to promote the region’s interests after Brexit.
Simon Pringle, director of Project Rome and Chair of the LEP’s Green Economy Panel said: “The Boxing Day floods three years ago brought home just how important it is that we look after our natural assets to minimise the risk of flooding to homes and businesses, and make the region more resilient to other effects of climate change.
“However, investing in our green spaces, waterways, cycle paths and wildlife habitats will also bring many other benefits including greener, more attractive places to live and work in, cleaner air and healthier, more economically active communities.
“The fact that we are publishing our Green and Blue Infrastructure Strategy alongside our Energy Strategy demonstrates the joined-up thinking between public and private sector partners in our City Region. We aren’t championing clean growth as an add-on, but are integrating it across our work to improve the lives of people who live and work in Leeds City Region.
“Clean growth has been a mainstream part of our economic growth activity for the best part of 10 years. With the publication of these two new strategies, we have an opportunity to take that work to the next level, and achieve impact that has national and international relevance.”