York council has been accused of ‘cheating’ over one of its key climate emergency pledges.
Opposition Labour Group leader Pete Kilbane says the ambition to make York a net-zero carbon city by 2030 is a case of ‘greenwashing’.
It’s because City of York Council’s carbon neutral promise is based on scope 1 and 2 emissions – largely generated on direct fuel and energy use.
But it ignores scope 3 emissions – the indirect emissions generated by the council, including emissions associated with business travel, procurement, waste and water.
Cllr Kilbane said: “In its net zero target the council doesn’t include up 70% of emissions caused elsewhere by the city’s activities, for example processing all domestic waste outside York.
“It is pointless for ruling politicians to be going around saying York will be carbon neutral by 2030, when the reality is they mean carbon neutral based on say, just 30% or 40% of the city’s total carbon impact.
“That’s cheating. All of York’s roads would be in Grade A condition if we didn’t count particular types of potholes, but that would be nonsensical.
“Establishing and acting on the city’s carbon impact is an existential issue for us all. This means we need politicians to be serious and to be prepared to tell the truth to residents, not massage the figures in order to claim successes that are really failures in the context of the climate crisis.”
‘Cheap party politics’
The executive member for environment and climate change Paula Widdowson said: “There is no denying that the ambition to make York carbon neutral by 2030 is a monumental task. It requires everyone to act, from the council to businesses and residents.”
She said the council has direct control over 4% of the city’s carbon footprint and influence on up to 20%, so “it’s absurd to imply that the council can achieve this ambition on its own”.
“The work on a carbon neutral York has always focused upon scope 1 and scope 2 emissions, with a clear commitment to minimise scope 3 emissions and exert as much influence over these as possible by enabling personal and business choices to be made more effectively.
“The leadership role that the council has taken on working with private companies and organisations across the city and region, is also key to aligning our ambitions and working together for the common goal of cutting carbon emissions.
“However, much of the big-picture work is beyond our local power and requires central Government investment and action to provide meaningful support to businesses to adapt to the new green jobs and sectors, and residents so they can insulate their homes, upgrade heating control, make electrical and appliance upgrades and swap petrol cars for electric vehicles.
“This administration is working to make York greener and cleaner for the benefit of generations to come.
“It is very easy for York Labour to snipe from the sidelines without taking responsibility or proposing alternatives or solutions. If the Labour group were capable of abandoning their cheap party politics, they would be very welcome to join us in making an actual difference in the city.”