Campaigners claim Kirklees Council' s performance on climate change is 'average'

Huddersfield town hall
Huddersfield town hall

Kirklees Council’s performance on climate change is “average” according to statistics compiled by Friends of the Earth.

And having looked at the authority’s record on housing, transport, energy, trees, waste and divestment the campaign group said it and other UK councils needed “to do much more” if climate catastrophe is to be averted.

The leader of the council’s Green group described the authority’s record as “mediocre”.

Councillor Andrew Cooper (Green, Newsome) said: “We need to be doing a lot more.”

A senior councillor said Kirklees’ declaration of a Climate Emergency demonstrated the authority’s commitment “to make a positive local change in response to what is a devastating global situation”.

The council declared a Climate Emergency in January. Councillors voted in favour of a motion that will see the authority carry out a full environmental audit and to measure its carbon footprint.

Conservatives abstained en-masse from the vote.

In its report on climate action Friends of the Earth highlighted the iniquitous effect on the poor, with many people suffering “climate injustice”.

It said: “The people most vulnerable to climate change are often those on lower incomes, despite having done the least to cause it because of their lower levels of consumption.

“For example, people with lower incomes are less able to replace and repair damage from flooding or insure against it. This inequality is called climate injustice.”

It added that of more than 10,000 neighbourhoods across the UK where people are particularly vulnerable to flooding due to their location and factors such as income 89 were in Kirklees.

And whilst that is less than 1% it said the council should target those areas for support in order to help residents prepare for extreme weather and respond and recover when it occurs.

The report said only 33% of homes in the borough were well insulated, representing “a shocking waste of energy”, with 13% of households suffering fuel poverty as they are unable to heat homes properly.

It said Kirklees should be fitting more than 6,000 eco-heating systems every year with money available from Government funding.

Greenhouse gas emissions could be lower if more people in Kirklees used public transport.

It said the current figure of 12% could go up to 20% if more people travelled by bike, assuming good cycling infrastructure.

Friends of the Earth suggests Kirklees has a target of 60% of people commuting by public transport, cycling and walking by 2030.

The Kirklees area only produces 27MW in renewable energy every year but was capable of 194MW, which Friends of the Earth said was “a minimum target”.

It said more wind turbines were required “if the UK is to wean itself off climate-wrecking oil and gas”.

It said Kirklees should endeavour to increase tree cover in the borough to 20% – significantly above the current 8% level.

Kirklees was also found lacking over recycling, with its figure of 27% a poor comparison to other local authorities that have hit 60% or local authorities in Wales that have set a target of 70% by 2025.

And, finally, it called on all local authorities to stop investing in fossil fuels.

Coun Andrew Cooper, leader of the Green group on Kirklees Council, gave his reaction to the report.

He said: “Some of the factors in this assessment are dictated by geography, the age of the housing stock and other factors, which are beyond the council’s control.

“But having said that this shows that Kirklees’ action on climate change is nothing special. We are certainly not a leading authority on action on climate change and there’s a lot more that we can do.

“Mediocre outcomes on climate change doesn’t cut it. We need to be doing a lot more.

“What we want to see now is whether the report of the council’s Climate Emergency Working Group will demonstrate that we are taking the Climate Emergency seriously.”

The Friends of the Earth report can be found here: https://takeclimateaction.uk/climate-action/how-your-local-authority-meeting-challenges-climate-emergency

Coun Naheed Mather, Cabinet Member for Greener Kirklees, said as well as declaring a climate emergency the council had also signed up to the Leeds City Region (LCR) ‘Climate Coalition’ in July, which includes a pledge to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2038 for the LCR.

She added: “We are committed to not only reducing our own impact on the planet but also encouraging others to do the same, not just in the council, but across Kirklees.

“This includes making changes to how we all work, travel, eat, use energy and deal with waste.

“We have been actively working to reduce our impact on the planet for many years, but we recognise that there is more to be done.”

The council’s Climate Emergency Working Party will present a report to full council sometime this autumn.