York faces a “massive” challenge if it is to have any hope of becoming a net-zero carbon city by 2030, councillors have heard.
Even if huge reductions in carbon emissions are made across key sectors in the city, it will only amount to gross emissions falling by 54 per cent against 2019 levels, a meeting of the council’s climate change policy and scrutiny committee was told.
Claire Foale, assistant director of policy and strategy, said: “What we need to do is reduce our transport emissions by 71 per cent – just hold that thought for a minute, because that is massive.”
Industry emissions would have to be reduced by 63 per cent, domestic buildings by 56 per cent and emissions from waste cut by 41 per cent.
Ms Foale added: “They are our targets for us to get to 54 per cent of our gross emissions compared to 2019 levels, which you can see means that we are not going to reach the 2030 net zero target if we continue on our high ambition pathway.”
Previous council analysis has shown that the city will not be carbon neutral by 2030 as it could cost up to £3bn.
The two largest contributors to York’s carbon emissions are from buildings – 61.9 per cent – and transport – 27.9 per cent.
The council’s climate change strategy, which is near completion, will set out how the council can harness emerging technology while lobbying government for bigger changes to help the council try to reach its goal.
City of York Council declared a climate emergency in March 2019 and committed to becoming carbon neutral as a city by 2030.
Committee chairman Coun Christian Vassie said having the data allowed the council to grasp “an absolutely massive nettle”.
He estimated that retrofitting the city’s 90,000 homes alone could cost £2.7bn.
He added: “The scale of the challenge becomes clearer – there’s a lot of facing up to do and whether local authorities can do this, whether government can do this, whether businesses have to work make it happen – that’s the next stage.
“But certainly I have to say I am heartened that we are now at least dealing with the scale of the emissions that currently exist and therefore begin to be able to wrestle with the challenge we face.
“Whether we can do this by 2030 is something there will be many opinions on.”
Ms Foale said: “We haven’t lost faith – we’re just more aware of what we need to do and we’re more focused on what needs to happen.”
The council’s executive member for environment and climate change, Paula Widdowson, has approved a £50,000 plan to cover the creation of decarbonisation plans for up to ten of the council’s corporate buildings.
Coun Widdowson also approved a £110,000 spend over the next two years on the creation of a local energy plan for York.
“It will give us sight of where we can put all the renewable energies, where we need to put the new substations and how we make sure that we future-proof the city for the next 30 – 50 years,” Coun Widdowson said.