Climate Change


Leeds City Council continuously prepares a succession of strategies and forward plans. Unfortunately, there is no requirement for these various plans to be consistent with one another, so it is quite common to find the council facing in several different directions at the same time.

In December 2007 the Executive Board approved a draft strategy on climate change, which was briefly open for public consultation in January and February 2008. The intention is to publish a final version jointly with the Leeds Initiative in June 2008. Click to download a copy of the draft climate strategy.

Meanwhile the council continues with its other plan making activities. It is currently working on a draft strategic plan for the period up to 2011, which also considers more distant horizons. This strategy make only token reference to climate change. It contains few effective measures and some of its economic objectives are in direct opposition to the council's climate policies. In March 2008 Cllr Illingworth wrote to the Chief Executive in the following terms:




18/03/2008 11:14




Jane.Stageman@leeds.gov.uk, all councillors


Strategic Plan

Dear Mr Rogerson

I note minute 199 of the Executive Board on 12 March. All councillors are still being asked to comment on the draft, so I assume that the text is still open for discussion. The council's publicity should make this clear.

I am disappointed in the draft. It is very much 'business as usual' and puts me in mind of St Augustine: "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet..."

Business as usual will not deal with global warming. More radical measures are needed. I believe the following propositions are beyond dispute:

  1. Existing global carbon dioxide production is already much too high, and this has caused the present problems, which are rapidly getting worse.

  2. Carbon dioxide output is likely to rise still further, with industrialisation in China, India, South America and the Pacific rim.

  3. If nothing is done, climate change will lead to mass starvation, migration, war and disease.

  4. We cannot exhort others to show restraint, while continuing to offend ourselves.

  5. Most of the oil will be gone by 2050, although coal will last rather longer.

  6. Coal has double the carbon dioxide output compared with oil or gas.

  7. Leeds and the UK cannot insulate themselves from global events.

  8. Energy costs will rise very considerably during the plan period.

Our local use of fossil fuels must fall by 90% by 2050. This can be achieved in two ways: planned or unplanned. If we do nothing, natural forces will bring us back into balance, through a steep decline in living standards and through large and brutal reductions in the global population. Alternatively, we can plan for it.

We could and should achieve a 5% annual reduction in fossil fuel use by the Leeds City Region, year on year, for the next century. This means everybody, not just the council or the public sector. That equates to a 45% reduction in carbon dioxide output by 2020, assuming compound interest. If we miss our target one year, the shortfall must be added to the next. Growth in one area must be balanced by increased savings elsewhere.

I believe this is achievable through planning. If it is not planned, it will happen anyway and this will be extremely unpleasant for our children, even if we ourselves are dead.

This 5% annual target must be written into the Leeds Strategic Plan, the Leeds Development Framework and retrospectively added to the Unitary Development Plan, so that it can have an immediate effect on planning policies. This will require the Secretary of State's approval, but I do not anticipate that he would refuse.

We must ask our partners in the Leeds Initiative to adopt the same policy. I believe that many are already waiting for a lead, and there will actually be little dissent.

The target can be achieved by a systematic attention to detail: new buildings, better insulation and building design, combined heat and power, more efficient equipment, greater use of public transport and sustainable modes, reducing the need to travel, house or job swaps, sustainable energy, heat pumps and so forth. We can either achieve this in a planned way, and thereby create a city that is fit for the 21st century, or in an unplanned way, which will be a miserable experience for all concerned.

Councillor John Illingworth
18 March 2008

Hansen and others...

Through an odd coincidence, around the time when the message above was written, climate scientist James Hanson and eight collaborators posted an important paper on the Columbia University website. Their draft was updated on 31 March 2008 and it repays careful reading. Using antarctic ice cores and ocean sediment data, they conclude that the last major glaciation started at an atmospheric CO2 concentration of about 425 ppm.

This implies that CO2 concentrations greater than 425 ppm correspond to an ice-free world.

They point to the catastrophic consequences from their deduction. 425ppm is close to the current European target, but this would still result in a 7 metre rise in mean sea level through the melting of the Greenland ice cap and a 61 metre rise when the main antarctice ice sheets melt. This is sufficient to turn Leeds into a seaside town, inundating much of the world's most productive agricultural land in the process. The shoreline in Kirkstall would run through Morris Woods, and Kirkstall Abbey would be completely submerged.

Hansen and his collaborators conclude that a total ban on coal-fired power stations is required by 2030, and that active measures are needed to return atmospheric CO2 to about 350 ppm.

Council Meeting 9th April 2008

There was an opportunity to return to this issue at the April Council Meeting. Speeches are limited to 5 minutes, so it is difficult to say very much, but it was possible to include a brief reference to the latest scientific results. Click here to download the council speech, which we believe was the first explicit call in full council for sustained annual cuts in Leeds carbon dioxide output.


The antarctic ice sheet is up to 3 miles thick and complete melting is expected to take hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. Partial melting could happen much more quickly, and this would still have catastrophic consequences, inundating major cities, displacing millions of people and destroying the world's best agricultural land. Geological records show that sea level has altered rapidly in the past. The map below shows the effects on Kirkstall from a complete melting of both polar ice caps, resulting in a consequential rise in sea level of about 68 metres. The blue colour shows the area that would ultimately be submerged by the sea. Much of the ward would eventually be under water, with starving survivors fighting countless refugees for the little that was left.


Last updated 29 November 2008 at 20:44. Back to the top

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Promoted by John Illingworth, 37 Kirkwood Way, Leeds LS16 7EU