According to Sir David Attenborough, “right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster, the collapse of our civilisations is on the horizon. But together we can make real change happen.”
His hope that the planet can be saved from global warming is echoed by a new report from the Leeds Climate Commission. The report sets out targets to make Leeds play its part in reducing global emissions by becoming a carbon neutral city by 2050, or even as soon as 2030.
The report states that to stay within the United Nations recommended 1.5 degrees temperature increase target, between now and 2050 Leeds will not be able to exceed its carbon budget (amount of carbon emissions) of 42 million tonnes.
This means that in relation to 2005 levels, by 2030 Leeds will have had to cut carbon emissions by 85% and 100% by 2050 to make it a carbon-free city. Crucially, according to the Chair of the Committee and Professor of Environmental Policy at Leeds University Andy Gouldson, “it is technically, and to a large extent, economically possible for Leeds to become a carbon neutral city and meet the carbon reduction targets in line with the global targets set out by the UN.”
The report advises how carbon pollution can be cut significantly through “transformative action in all parts of the city.” Such action includes switching the district heating to decarbonised hydrogen, accelerating production of electric vehicles, ensuring that all new buildings are carbon neutral and encouraging a significant increase in levels of walking and cycling.
Drastic domestic behavioural changes are also required. Food waste would need to be cut by 80% and meat and dairy consumption would have to fall by a third.
These changes would not only make Leeds a more environmentally friendly city, it would also improve the health of residents by reducing air pollution as well as boosting the local economy through investments in renewable energy and future technologies.
Encouragingly, Leeds City Council is clearly committed to the fight having last month voted in favour of announcing a climate emergency and pledged to make Leeds carbon neutral by 2030. Work to achieve this is well under way.
Executive Member for Resources and Sustainability and Councillor James Lewis states: “Leeds City Council are already investing in – and benefiting from – greener technologies such as cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles, better home insulation, solar panels, and low-energy LED street lighting.”
The University of Leeds is also dedicated to reducing carbon emissions by 35% by 2020 and the sustainability service is working with the council in creating a university carbon strategy after 2020.
Whilst it is clear that the city of Leeds is committed to fighting climate change, it remains to be seen the position of other key players, as necessary changes will require political support from central government as well as business support from investors and organisations.
Yet the message from Attenborough and the report is the same: it’s not too late to save the world.
Image: [Intelligent Transport]