Friends in Leeds doubt council green pledges

Quakers in Leeds have raised concerns about the impact of the council's green pledges

Quakers in Leeds have claimed that ambitious plans announced by the council to more than halve its carbon emissions by 2025 are undermined by its commitment to expanding a local airport.

Quaker warden Robert Keeble, and member of the Leeds Area Sustainabilty Group, said he was ‘delighted but somewhat sceptical’ about the plans, ‘mainly because the council is committed to support a big expansion of the local “Leeds Bradford Airport”’. He explained: ‘It was only last year when I took part in a “die in” protest on the steps of the Leeds Civic Hall to try to stop the council’s proposed road scheme, which is needed to support the airport expansion – there was a formal deputation made to the council meeting and the scheme was reviewed. But Leeds City Council has just announced support for the full expansion proposals – it seems that the airport expansion “trumps” all environmental concerns.’

In a report issued on 13 January, the council laid out its plans to reduce carbon emissions by fifty-five per cent by purchasing electricity from renewable sources and supporting jobs in the UK’s growing low-carbon sector, which it claims employs more than 430,000 people nationwide.

It also proposes to ‘work in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Vital Energi to double the number of properties receiving affordable, sustainable heat from the city’s district heating network over the next twelve months’. Other plans include doubling the council’s fleet of ninety-five electric vehicles and introducing a ‘climate-friendly’ menu at 182 primary schools across the city.

While welcoming the proposals, Robert Keeble said that the council ‘is clinging to a fantasy that planes will soon be “low emission” and that “economic growth” resulting from the expansion is good’.

He said: ‘It feels like the council is very good at trying to talk up its green credentials’ but ‘is failing to acknowledge that, while it is making excellent work to reduce its own emissions, by facilitating the big expansion of the airport, the emissions for the city of Leeds will not reduce by the headline of fifty per cent.’

Other Quaker climate campaigners have praised the city for setting up a climate commission, which has been a model for other local authorities, including one being established by Kirklees Council, aided by local Friends. The city also held the Big Leeds Climate Conversation consultation, in partnership with the commission, which included a citizens’ jury to gather views on how the city should respond to the climate crisis.

According to the consultation, more than ninety-seven per cent of nearly 8,000 respondents believe that combating climate change and protecting biodiversity should be a priority for Leeds.

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