Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
A Farnley & Wortley councillor gave a rallying cry for the authority to do more on the issue of climate change, claiming the authority’s current attitude to tackling the problem should be treated with the same severity as the Covid-19 pandemic.
Coun Ann Forsaith (Green) said children and young people in the city will have to take on the future challenges caused by CO2 emissions, and warned that the council should not see its own climate emergency declaration as an “add-on” to its main policies.
Her comments came during a debate on the council’s “best city ambition” – a council-published document which sets out what principles the council should work to when making decisions.
The document is based on “three pillars” – or priorities – outlined by the council: improving health and wellbeing, making sure the city’s growing economy helps the most disadvantaged, and the third being a zero-carbon economy by 2030.
Coun Forsaith said:
“I feel from the three pillars that the climate crisis is almost like an add on. My view is that it needs to be first and foremost.
“Our young children are already responding individually because they are being educated about climate change and they know what these dangers are. Many of them are worried.
“The mental health aspect of this is only going to be alleviated if we as adults address this and support them for their future.
“Covid has shown us we can deal with these things as an emergency. Because we are coming through the Covid emergency, it gives us an opportunity to address it that way.
“It needs to be framed as another emergency that we have got to deal with. We are here because of the children in our schools and they are the ones that we need to get this right for.”
As part of the zero carbon pillar, the document pledges to create a “low carbon, active and affordable transport network”, while promoting more sustainable food and housing systems.
Leeds City Council deputy leader Coun Jonathan Pryor (Lab) said: “This is an absolute priority, which is why it is one of the three priorities of the city. This is not a pillar in isolation – it needs to be work carried throughout. We look at decarbonising school buildings.
“We are on our way to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, which is a far more ambitious target than many others – it is something I would love to see councils across the country, and countries across the world, adopting the same target.”