Cllr Paul Davies shares how Kirklees Council are tackling the climate emergency

This blog post was originally published on 17th May 2021

Although COVID dominates our lives at present, climate change has not gone away. For residents and communities of Kirklees we are still seeing evidence of this with recent flooding and extreme weather. However, with the ever-present challenges of the pandemic, we understand climate change may not be at the forefront of residents’ minds. We recognise the need as anauthority to push forward with our climate change ambitions to lead by example, whilst supporting the residents and communities through what has been a difficult past year.

Within Kirklees, and from my area Holme Valley, our natural environment and open spaces contribute to people’s quality of life and makes the district a more attractive place in which to live, explore and invest. We continue to engage and connect people and places, work towards improving air quality and to be resilient in the face of extreme weather, as well as helping people to reduce waste and recycle more.

In January 2019, like many authorities nationally, Kirklees Council declared a Climate Emergency, and since then, has been developing its approach to tackling this through the delivery of several of its declared Climate Emergency actions. Like many of these local authorities who have set carbon net zero targets by the 2030s, we are eager to work with residents, communities, small/medium businesses and large organisations as well as neighbouring authorities to work collaboratively towards our ambitious target.

We know that one size doesn’t fit all, and we recognise the diversity and strengths to be found across Kirklees. We are committed to working with people to design, develop and deliver support and services. Place based working taps into the huge pride that the people of Kirklees have for the places in which they live, work and play, and their valuable skills, strengths, and local knowledge.

Since 2019 we have begun a programme of works to actively deliver our commitments and we are now completing many of our agreed phase 1 climate change actions or are in the process of delivering them in 2021.

Some of these actions include the development of the council’s own Climate Commission initiated through our Kirklees Council advisory panel. The aim is that the Commission will be representative of the whole Kirklees community as it will include representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Thanks to Council officers, we held a two-day young people’s virtual climate festival in March 2021. I recognise that the success of our climate commitment is dependent upon the young people of Kirklees becoming involved and engaged, so we continue our youth engagement externally whilst connecting with our internal Young Employee Network (YEN) and Green Employee Network colleagues.

I am proud to promote the fact that Kirklees has invested £1million to grow its electric vehicle charge point infrastructure and invested an additional £1million toward the conversion of the Council’s fleet vehicles to electric or zero emission equivalents. We will also be offering free parking for electric vehicles in council car parks to further encourage the take up of this new technology.

Kirklees Council has already demonstrated its commitment to the climate emergency by meeting its carbon reduction target two years ahead of the end date, with results identifying a reduction of carbon emissions by 53.5% in 2019-20. This was greater than the 40% target set in 2010 using our 2005/06 baseline.

We’ve also recently agreed the next steps for taking forward an ambitious Huddersfield Heat Network scheme. Thanks to funding from the Government’s Heat Networks Delivery Unit, the Council will progress further feasibility work to develop the business case for this opportunity.

The development of our own Heat Network offers many potential benefits to the town including a reduction in energy prices, future energy security, local economic benefits and dividends and a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, which is key to our ‘net zero’ carbon emissions target for 2038.

Following on from our Phase 1 commitments, Kirklees Council is also working towards the development of a climate change roadmap for an ongoing programme of climate emergency activity. We are developing an effective partnership and collaborative approach to tackling the climate emergency, facilitated through the Kirklees Climate Commission and are developing an extensive communication and culture change strategy to inform and push cultural and behavioural changes within the Council.

The nature of this challenge means the closer we get to our emissions target the more difficult it will become to reach our final goal. We recognise this and the need to prioritise the development of a roadmap to inform a comprehensive organisational action plan to reach net zero and the need to help our community and voluntary sector partners make this journey.

I am excited for the challenges and key work we are undertaking, and I welcome the opportunity to work with all stakeholders to achieve our ambitious targets.