Climate change and inequality
Would Greta say York Council is lying?
In A Net Zero Carbon Roadmap for York, Professor Gouldson estimated York’s share of the remaining carbon budget for 1.5°C. It was 50 tonnes CO2e per citizen from the beginning of 2020.
The remaining carbon budget is the amount of greenhouse gases, that humanity can emit while still having a chance to contain global warming within 1.5°C compared with pre-industrial levels, as advocated by the Paris Agreement.
The Gouldson study also assessed the current greenhouse gas emissions in York. However, the study did not count emissions from “things that are produced elsewhere and then imported into York … similarly food production and flying are not included.”
York’s declaration of a climate emergency clearly specified that greenhouse gas emissions should be counted on a consumption basis, measuring the emissions resulting from the consumption patterns of York citizens. This would exclude the exceptions made in the Gouldson Report.
However, this report gave yearly emissions as 4.2 tonnes CO2e for the average York citizen. This would exhaust the 50-tonne remaining personal carbon budget in less than 12 years. The real situation is rather worse.
The website carbon.place does include these missing emissions. It estimates York citizens average yearly emissions at 8.0 tonnes CO2e, nearly twice the emissions reported by Professor Gouldson. This would exhaust the 50-tonne remaining personal carbon budget in just over six years.
Professor Gouldson’s figures may come from the SCATTER tool, which was funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Greta Thunberg has referred to their claim, about the UK being a climate leader as a lie:
“There is a lie that the UK is a climate leader and that they have reduced their CO2 emissions by 44 percent since 1990, or whatever.
“And of course, if you don’t include all emissions, that’s, of course, the statistics are going to look much nicer.”
Using the restricted BEIS data with their methods York Climate Change Strategy boasts:
York recognises its place as a leader on climate action.
As York Council uses BEIS methods for carbon counting…
Would Greta say their claim is a lie?
I think so.
Inequality of emissions
York Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2022-2032 expresses concerns about inequality in York:
Our recovery efforts, and this strategy, seek to learn these lessons by emphasising collaboration, building on the assets already present in our city, and tackling the inequalities which we know also exist.
The York Climate Change Strategy, “A City Fit for the Future” has no mentions of inequality.
However, the website carbon.place notes some areas in York have much, much higher carbon emissions than others. The worst areas for emissions are typically those containing detached houses with easy access to the ring road such as areas of Copmanthorpe, Woodthorpe and Bishopthorpe.
York’s climate policy should recognise this inequality and help and persuade these polluters to do better.
See also my article in YorkMix “‘York council looks set to abandon its climate promise. Here’s why’”.
Health and well-being
Inequality in York
There is much to commend in the document York Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2022-2032. It does highlight the role of inequality in health outcomes. However, it does not advocate anything that would reduce this inequality.
York has become more unequal over recent decades as wealthier people, mostly from the South of England have come to York. Together with a low rate of house building this has greatly increased property values so that the affluent have benefited by increases in their property value and the less affluent have paid more rent. Current planning policy hardly addresses this problem. (See my The York Local Plan: Exiling the poor.)
There is no mention of the effects of air pollution in York. See my “York air pollution is a killer – it’s time for a clean up”.
In 2012, the City of York’s Low Emissions Strategy estimated that between 94 and 163 people die prematurely each year in York from traffic pollution. In addition, Public Health England have estimated that there are 82 premature deaths a year in York from particulate pollution alone.
In some city centre areas, where air quality is made worse by traffic pollution, the ownership of cars is nine times less than the ownership of cars in York’s most carbon polluting area in Copmanthorpe.
York Economic Strategy
Well-paid jobs for incomers and jobs in tourism & hospitality.
The York Economic Strategy says:
“For the past 20 years, York has had a consistent focus on growing well paid employment on the back of University-driven sector growth…These have transformed York’s economy, adding 20,000 highly skilled jobs to the city.”
The aim of attracting highly skilled jobs may not be an advantage to many less wealthy residents because the jobs will be filled by incomers. For example, few of the staff at York’s Universities will be native to York.
These well paid incomers enter York’s market for goods & services and increase the cost of living for York’s existing citizens. This is especially true for the housing market.
Tourism retail and hospitality
The strategy also reports that recently York has:
“refocused on the importance of our city centre, and of employment in tourism, retail and hospitality.”
However, “these jobs are also lower paid, offer fewer opportunities for career progression”. Additionally, a significant but rarely mentioned issue is the carbon footprint of tourist, who fly long distances emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases.
Green jobs & green transport
The strategy includes measures for growth in green jobs and the bio-economy:
1. Ensure the workforce is equipped with skills for the ‘green’ economy
It’s good to see future working with York College in the strategy to make the appropriate courses available but not enough about how this can be translated into improving the housing stock in York.
2. Develop York’s emerging bio-economy cluster via BioYorkshire initiative.
BioYorkshire has participants that are criticised for damaging the environment (e.g. Drax for the biomass burnt or Nestle for using palm oil).
The strategy on green transport rightly emphasises increasing cycling and active travel to work. However, it also plans to encourage the use of electric vehicles by increased charging points, without mentioning the large carbon emissions from manufacturing electric cars.
These strategies show an underlying objective: Make York a desirable place for affluent people to settle. These will be people, who will make the cost of living higher for existing citizens, especially housing. The incomers will also have very high greenhouse emissions.
York Council strategies show little care for inequality or the climate crisis.
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