To receive an update from the Director of City Development about the approach being taken to explore what the transition to Net Zero means for the Leeds economy.
The following individuals were in attendance for this item:
Cllr Helen Hayden - Executive Member
Cllr Jonathan Pryor - Executive Member
Fiona Bolam - Head of Economic Policy
Fiona Bolam introduced the item, highlighting the importance of considering the transition to carbon neutrality in the context of the Council’s ambition to deliver inclusive growth.
Fiona referenced the appendix to the report, which sets out initial analysis from the Centre for Progressive Policy about the risks and opportunities for Leeds of the transition to net zero. The Council will be commissioning a partner to carry out more detailed sector-based analysis. This will include exploring the support businesses need to transition to net zero, and the impact on the current and future workforce.
The Scrutiny Board was informed that this project aligns with regional work on the green economy, which is being led by WYCA and the final recommendations that emerge from the work will inform the refresh of the Inclusive Growth Strategy next year.
Fiona provided an overview of existing work to increase resilience to climate change and provided information about two regional schemes – Resource Efficient Business (REBiz) and Travel Plan Network. She also noted the success of Leeds City Council’s Electric Vehicle Trials with local businesses.
The Board discussed some of the risks identified in the initial analysis from the Centre for Progressive Policy. This included levels of employment in high emitting industries and the concentration of these industries in areas with higher deprivation. Members raised concern about the potential for inequalities to increase if employees in these industries do not have the skills to access emerging jobs in the green economy.
Other matters discussed by the Scrutiny Board included:
- Transport emissions: The high level of road transport emissions in Leeds.
- Political uncertainty: Uncertainty about policy and funding commitments created by the current political context. It was noted that leading businesses have written to Conservative leadership candidates to urge them to commit to net zero targets.
- The role of anchor institutions: Cllr Buckley raised concern about the impact on climate resilience of areas of woodland being sold by Yorkshire Water. Cllr Hayden noted the role of Yorkshire Water as a flood risk management partner and agreed to provide further information for Cllr Buckley about the sales.
- Electric Vehicle Trials: the Board discussed learning opportunities including infrastructure requirements in areas of dense housing and the potential for EV chargers to be attached to lamp-posts in future. The Board sought clarity about the reasons why some businesses decided not to buy or lease a vehicle after the trial.
- Regional partners: Reassurance was given that there is strong partnership working between both the Council and WYCA, and the results of the Leeds based exercise will be fed back to regional partners.
- New Economic Opportunities: The Scrutiny Board highlighted the implications for skills training/interventions as new sectors emerge and the importance of supporting emerging sectors in order to attract inward investment. The Chair requested more information about modelling from the Local Government Association that shows that Leeds will generate the highest estimated number of jobs in the low-carbon and renewable energy sector of all the English Core Cities.
- Hydrogen compatible infrastructure: Further information was requested about local and regional work to develop hydrogen compatible infrastructure.
- Benchmarking & Sharing of Best Practice: It was noted that Leeds is often at the forefront of rolling out new technology – e.g. the electric fleet was cited as an example. However, the organisation seeks to look to other cities and European partners to share best practice.
- Timescales for the project: The Board requested an update on the findings of the extended analysis once the work has been completed.
It was resolved that:
- That report be noted.
- Further information to be provided by the Head of Economic Policy about the basis for the Local Government Association’s modelling of the number of jobs that may be generated in the low-carbon and renewable energy sector.
- To explore options, via the Principal Scrutiny Advisor, for more information to come to the Scrutiny Board about the development of hydrogen-related infrastructure in the city and wider region.
- A further update to be provided to the Board once final recommendations have been received from the Council’s commissioned partner towards the end of 2022/early 2023.