Senior councillors have backed three linked strategies aimed at tackling the “biggest challenges” the city faces over the next ten years.
The climate change, economic, and health and wellbeing strategies have been created to get York to reach its net zero by 2030 target, strengthen its economy post-Covid and improve the health and wellbeing of its residents.
The climate change strategy has been designed with the help of academic and industry experts. An accompanying action plan contains an indicative list of 160 potential actions, 58 of which the council has started work on.
Head of carbon reduction Shaun Gibbons said: “The strategy is clear that 2030 is an ambitious target date for net zero and in order to achieve this we must deliver significant emissions reductions. We’ll also need to go further and faster when new technology and policy mechanisms allow.”
For York to be net zero by 2030 requires a reduction in net carbon emissions by 13 per cent each year. But the council has not committed to hitting an annual target, which has drawn criticism from climate change scrutiny committee chair Coun Christian Vassie.
He said last month: “It is widely seen as a way of delivering less while pretending the shortfall will be made up at some point in the future. It’s a way of kicking the can down the road and avoiding big decisions.”
Executive member for climate change Coun Paula Widdowson said: “Of course there are more actions we can take and we are not resting on our laurels, but I do think this is a time to take a breath and actually have a look at what we have achieved.”
Last week, the council was recognised by the internationally renowned Climate Disclosure Project, who highlighted the council as one of 122 cities worldwide leaders on climate action.
Coun Denise Craghill said the strategy was “not perfect in every sense” and said the Greens wanted to see more work on scope three emissions – which are those the city contributes to indirectly.
Labour group leader Coun Claire Douglas said there was not enough mention of transport across the strategies, which she said was “vitally important” to tackle climate change, health inequalities and boost business.
York’s economic strategy aims to make it among the UK’s top 25 per cent most productive cities.
Head of economic growth Simon Brereton said: “York has already got a strong economy – more productive than the other places around us, but only average in UK terms.”
On the health and wellbeing strategy, public health expert Peter Roderick said good health was not evenly distributed across the city.
He said the three strategies, which will also be discussed at full council in December, worked well together as they formed the “building blocks” of good health – “a strong economy, good jobs, people’s friends and social connections, their income, educational attainment and child health.”
Coun Janet Looker said after the meeting: “The proposed strategy contains a series of very noble goals, all of which we would all support. But I very much hope that behind it will sit a plan to meet a whole range of targets, if we are to improve the health of the city.”
Mr Roderick said the strategy aimed to reduce smoking rates to five per cent across all population groups and help four in five citizens to be active.