A net-zero carbon roadmap for Leeds & how we can help

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The first version of the Leeds Net-Zero Carbon Roadmap was published by the Leeds Climate Commission in the spring of 2019.

A lot has happened and so much has changed in the short period of time since the first version of the roadmap was published that a new version is clearly needed. Read LCC press release, webinar, slides and report in detail by clicking here, but here’s a flavour…

Leeds has a total carbon budget of 31 megatonnes over the period between the present and 2050. At current rates of emissions output, Leeds would use up this budget in 2029.

However, Leeds could stay within its carbon budget by reducing its emissions by c.11% year on year. And the earlier we make change, the better.

Leeds’ baseline emissions have fallen by 40% since 2000, due to a combination of increasingly decarbonised electricity supply, structural change in the economy, and the gradual adoption of more efficient buildings, vehicles and businesses.

With full decarbonisation of UK electricity by 2045 and on-going improvements in energy and fuel efficiency, we project that Leeds’ baseline (Scope 1 and 2) emissions will only fall by a further 10% by 2050.

There is potential to avoid 63 MtCO2e in emissions that will otherwise be produced in the city between 2020 and 2050.

The domestic housing and transport sectors will contribute most significantly towards this total, with a combined decarbonisation potential of between 35-48 MtCO2e through the period.

The top10 most cost- and carbon-effective options overall

Even with full delivery of the broad programme of cross-sectoral, city-wide low carbon investment highlighted above, there remains an emissions shortfall of 40% between Leeds’s 2030 BAU baseline and the net-zero target.

How do we plug this gap into the future? Many “stretch options” are innovative by nature but they will be required, to reach Leeds’ future targets, eg.

Closing the gap?

In theory Leeds could offset its residual emissions (previous charts grey shaded area) through a UK based tree planting scheme; however this would require the planting of 89 million trees, which even with the densest possible planting would require 20,000 hectares of land, equivalent to 36% of the total land area of the city.

Carbon emissions could be cut further still through with the adoption of behavioural and consumption based changes (scope 3 emissions) such as the promotion of active travel (e.g. walking and cycling), reductions in meat and dairy consumption and the generation of food waste, and reduced consumption of concrete and steel with more emphasis on green infrastructure.

Such consumption-based changes – which would impact on the broader Scope 3 carbon footprint of the city – will be the focus of future work.

So, what can we do as households?

The obvious thing is to switch to a green energy supplier, click here. This is even more relevant when you purchase an electric vehicle, since many green energy suppliers have off peak rates, for overnight charging, saving you money.

The next obvious thing is to investigate the Governments Green Homes Grant, click here (deadline extended to 31 March 2022). If you’re a homeowner or residential landlord you can apply for a Green Homes Grant voucher towards the cost of installing energy efficient improvements to your home. Improvements could include insulating your home to reduce your energy use or installing low-carbon heating to lower the amount of carbon dioxide your home produces.

Other than changing your flying habits the other big thing to do is to consider what food and drink you consume. Brits individually create on average 3 tonnes of carbon per year (8.2kg per day), from the food and drink we consume.

Professor Mike Berners-Lee from the University of Lancaster has created UK ‘carbon equivalent’ (C02e) data, outlining the total greenhouse gas cost, including methane, nitrous oxide and other gases, of everyday foods in the UK, click here to see the full list, heres the top and bottom foods so far;

Guidelines to cut the carbon footprint of your food shop

1. Buy fruit & veg in season, these have a lower carbon footprint.

Seasonal produce tends to create less greenhouse gas because it’s grown without artificial heat, and if it’s homegrown it doesn’t have to be shipped or – worse – flown in (eg highly perishable veg and fruit, such as asparagus and berries, flown in when out of season, but you can buy UK produce when it’s in season and freeze it). Check the packaging.

2. Cut back on meat and dairy and choose it carefully

Most beef sold in the UK is farmed here (this information is usually on the packaging), and grass-feeding cattle, rather than on soy, is also common in Britain. Note, much British grazing land is not suitable for growing crops anyway. Don’t buy imported beef (eg from Brazil, driving deforestation) can have about three times the carbon footprint of British beef.

3. Eat everything you buy

Each year as a nation we throw away 4.5 million tonnes of food from our own homes, a whopping 70% of the total food that is wasted in the UK. This has both the carbon footprint of producing the food and disposing of it. 

4. Buy less packaging

Producing plastic emits greenhouse gases, forming it into packaging produces more, and disposing of it produces more still. If possible, buy foods loose and use your own bags. Don’t buy black plastic packaging!

5. Use low-carbon cooking methods

Put a lid on your saucepan, you’ll save 20 percent of the energy.

Avoid boiling more water than you need.

Make the most of energy-efficient cookers, such as a microwaves & pressure cookers.

Start by cutting a tonne in ’21

Giki Zero, a free online tool, provides users with an estimate of their carbon footprint based on a questionnaire about their lives including how often they drive or fly, what they eat and how much electricity they use.

Giki measures individual footprints against global targets and offers a choice of more than 120 steps people can take to shrink their contribution to climate warming.

These range from “easy peasy” to “hardcore”, with options such as using shampoo bars instead of hair products in plastic bottles, cycling to work, going vegetarian and switching to a green power provider.

Users can pick their battles and track how the changes they make affect their overall carbon output. “It is about finding out what fits with your lifestyle and your budget”

Finally! SAVE MONEY, another recent ITV programme focused on encouraging everyone to go green and demonstrated you can save money too, click here to see more.

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