Thursday, 4 March 2021

Andrew Cooper - Green Party Candidate for West Yorkshire Mayor - Responses to FOE 10 Point Plan

 

  1. Ensuring all infrastructure plans, programmes and investment decisions – including COVID-19 recovery plans – are in line with what’s needed to address the climate and ecological emergency, and in line with the city region’s carbon budget and carbon reduction pathway.

 Yes of course I agree that all plans, programmes and investment should be in line with the city regions carbon budget. In my role as a member of West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Green Economy Panel I have already challenged the Carbon Impacts Assessment tool being developed to measure the emissions resulting from WYCAs investment decisions. I have asked that the Assessment tool is comprehensive in measuring emissions. It must measure not just the impacts of the scheme itself but also emissions facilitated by the investment. A good example would be investment in public transport links to Leeds Bradford Airport. I would regard that as a highly questionable investment by WYCA. We have also got to be wary of the use of dubious carbon offsetting  such as tree planting to mitigate carbon impacts. We don’t have enough land to robustly mitigate the impacts of all negative carbon expanding projects. If  schemes come before the Combined Authority that clearly have a negative impact on the Carbon Budget I will simply oppose it. 

  1. Ensuring those impacted most by climate breakdown and nature loss are heard and centre-stage in decision-making.

 This is a local, regional and a global issue. Climate breakdown and nature loss affects people now in our own localities as development projects are favoured on redesignated greenbelt and greenfield sites. Tree loss is blighting many communities and diminishing their quality of life. More areas are becoming subject to flooding due to climate change and the practice of building on flood plains. I would set up a process where communities could alert the West Yorkshire Mayor when their localities were threatened by climate breakdown and nature loss so they could influence decisions and investments to protect and enhance their environments. 

We also need a global perspective on loss and damage and a meaningful dialogue with the global south is important. I would challenge Government to ensure we are recognising loss and damage in our response to climate change.  I would seek dialogue with representatives from the global south through my links with the international organisation ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability). 

  1. Protecting workers and communities through a just transition from a fossil fuel-dependent economy to a low-carbon, nature-rich, circular economy, including delivering over 42,000 new jobs. 

The groundbreaking ‘One Million Green Jobs’ proposal by the Campaign against Climate Change showed us how addressing the climate crisis will deliver meaningful, worthwhile and rewarding jobs. There is a lot to do and the amount of retrofit work needed to buildings in West Yorkshire could easily generate 42,000 jobs. The opportunity is so much greater though, improving our public transport and active travel networks, enhancing biodiversity in communities, tree planting, establishing nature based solutions to heavy rainfall events. The role of the Mayor is to ensure investment is directed to deliver those jobs but also to provide the training and skills needed. There are things we are going to have to stop doing e.g. building new roads, widening roads, airport expansion so it is vital that we replace jobs from sectors that are incompatible with a stable climate with ones that are. There is more than enough to do. 

  1. Introducing policies and measures that ensure new development is net zero carbon and existing homes are brought up to high energy-standards and addressing fuel poverty. 

One of the flagship policies in my bid for the West Yorkshire Mayoralty is the Green Building Fund where I will seek to ensure that all public sector procured or influenced projects are built to the Passivhaus Standard or equivalent. I will establish a fund that will support an uplift in expected capital costs by 5% to cover the expected additional costs of building to that standard. I have proposed such a policy on Kirklees Council for several years but have met opposition from the Labour administration who have exaggerated the capital cost uplift by wrongly referencing the costs of one off projects to seek to justify their opposition. 

I have a strong record on initiating projects to retrofit homes and initiated the UKs first free insulation scheme, the award winning, Kirklees Warm Zone in 2007. There are strong plans being developed by WYCA looking at the challenge of retrofitting existing buildings. What is lacking is a convincing offer to householders to invest in whole house solutions to reduce their emissions. I will ensure funds are available for a Green New Deal Demonstrator Project that will be used to show Government the value of HS2 levels of investment in large scale retrofit projects. It will demonstrate positive health outcomes of living in warm homes, alleviation of fuel poverty, putting more money back in the pockets of the community and out of the pockets of the big energy companies. I have a strong record in addressing fuel poverty in my previous career as an Energy Efficiency Advice Centre Manager and as a Trustee of the fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action for 6 years. 

  1. At least doubling public transport use, cycling and walking within the next 10 years, to cut emissions and ensure everyone can breathe clean air.

 Getting people out of cars and into/onto cleaner forms of transport needs a compelling offer that is cheaper and more convenient than the car. The best example I have seen is in Tallinn the capital city of Estonia where public transport is free to everyone. Ideally that is what I would want to see in West Yorkshire but ensuring we at least have the same powers over public transport that the Mayor of London has would be a great start. That would require a specific ask of government and extending the powers of the West Yorkshire Mayor. That is what I will seek. In the meantime, I would seek to invest more in public transport and much less in building new roads and widening roads. 

Supporting active travel is something that I would want to see a huge expansion of. The West Yorkshire Carbon Pathways report indicates the need to expand cycling by 8000% but at present travel for cyclists is often dangerous so we need to invest more in dedicated and protected cycle lanes so we can expand and democratise cycling. I would also want to support the expansion of e-bikes and would seek financial mechanisms to make the purchase and rental of e-bikes more accessible to more people. I would also want to support projects like the Queensbury tunnel to give more and safer options for cyclists.

 Ultimately most of us are pedestrians and provision for them is often lacking. I would ensure that pedestrians were considered in all appropriate investment decisions. I was responsible for removing all signs in the ward I represent with just the words ‘Public Footpath’ on them and had them replaced with Public Footpath signs that say where they are going to and the distance. I am enthusiastic about the Slow Ways initiative and would like West Yorkshire to a national leader in this. 

  1. Powering the city region with clean, renewable energy, reaping the economic and job opportunities that this brings. 

We have to start planning for clean energy production by reducing the demand for energy through efficiency measures. This has to be at the top of our plans as it gives us more choices, more cost effectively than a simple predict and provide approach. 

I would want to see the return of Solar PV and other renewable technologies as mass market options for the majority of householders during my first term as West Yorkshire Mayor. I would establish a revolving loan fund enabling householders to install renewable technology in their home by accessing a preferential loan based on a second charge on the value of a property. This would effectively mean no upfront costs to the household and the loan being paid back to the fund upon sale of the property. This is based on the Kirklees RE-Charge scheme I initiated in Kirklees which was the winner at the British Renewable Energy awards in 2008. With the Mayor being unable to reintroduce a feed in tarrif this is the next best option to kick start the household renewable sector. Beyond households I would seek to establish Mayoral Development Areas in conjunction with local Councils to build solar farms and wind farms. I would also seek a relaxation on the constraints on wind development in local planning. 

  1. Greening the city-region by increasing tree cover, protecting nature, and eliminating green-space deprivation. 

I am an enthusiast for promoting tree planting and have initiated a small scale tree planting project in my role as a Kirkburton Parish Councillor. The 1000 fruit tree project engaged communities across the Kirkburton Parish in planting fruit trees in their own community and was taken up by village associations and schools. There are great opportunities to integrate tree planting programmes with wider climate education and engagement with young people. Ensuring tree cover is included as an integral part of any urban regeneration schemes will be a stipulation and condition of Mayoral funding. 

I have a proven track record of promoting tree planting projects and in 2019 proposed a 150,000 tree planting project over Kirklees which unfortunately was not accepted by the Labour administration. I will ensure that any Mayoral Development Area that may be designated is not on redesignated greenbelt on greenfield land. The focus will be on the regeneration of brownfield land. 

I am shocked that WYCA funded schemes like the widening of the A629 at Edgerton in Huddersfeild is going to see 126 mature trees removed. Schemes such as this I would simply not support. 

I am keen that biodiversity gain is achieved for all developments we make and that the ecological crisis we face is addressed as well as the climate crisis by protecting habitats and creating new ones. 

  1. Becoming a zero-waste city-region by 2030 without relying on landfill or incineration, to reduce pressures on nature from resource extraction and pollution.

 Incineration is demonstrably a disincentive to a circular economy and recycling. Council waste contracts are beyond the powers of the Mayor though we can insist in any contractual arrangements we make that proper consideration is given to waste minimisation, recycling and reuse of materials. I would seek out the very best Local Authorities on recycling and waste management, such as Stroud District and convene a workshop of all West Yorkshire Councils to promote best practice.

 I would ensure that the very likely conflict between recycling and incineration of recyclables is highlighted and that Combined Authority funds do not support the incineration of recyclables. 

  1. Calling on the local government pension scheme to divest from fossil fuels, to stop profiting from environmental harm. 

I have been calling on Labour Councillor representatives on the West Yorkshire Pension Fund Investment Panel to divest from fossil fuels for many years but have met resistance. I have worked with divestment campaigners and will continue to do so. Apart from the environmental reasons to divest there is also the very real possibility that they could become stranded assets lacking any significant value. So there are good financial reasons to divest from fossil fuels as well. As West Yorkshire Mayor I would give my wholehearted backing for the WYPF divesting fully from fossil fuel investments. 

  1. Opposing the unsustainable growth plans for Leeds Bradford Airport and joining with Metro Mayors across the country to ensure regional airports keep within carbon budgets. 

I watched hours of the Leeds City Council Planning Committee when sadly they decided to pass Leeds Bradford Airport Expansion Plans. I am pleased that some Cllrs on the Leeds Planning Committee including my Green colleague Cllr David Blackburn voted against expansion but sadly they were not in the majority. I have raised the issue at Kirklees Council meetings trying in vain to get the Leadership of the council to come out against the proposals.  As West Yorkshire Mayor I will not back any proposals that support Leeds Bradford Airport expansion and I am happy to try and make expansion of Regional Airports an issue on all Metro Mayors agendas

 

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