Shock at city’s ‘poor’ performance dealing with climate change

As one of the greenest cities in the UK, Sheffield is always at the forefront in championing carbon footprint reduction and was among the first councils to declare a climate emergency.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 12:25 pm
Climate protestors, Extinction Rebellion block Derek Dooley Way in Sheffield at Bridgehouse Roundabout to disrupt the morning rush hour traffic flow into the city

But in a shocking report released by a renowned environmental organisation, Sheffield still has a long way to go to make the vision of a carbon-neutral city a reality.

In the study, conducted by Friends of the Earth that mapped out the whole of England and Wales in a bid to improve policies on climate change, Sheffield’s score of 60 per cent was much lower than many neighbouring areas and similar sized cities and has been labelled as ‘poor’ compared to other local authority areas.

The performance was calculated by looking at renewable energy, public transport, lift-sharing, energy efficiency at home, waste recycling, and tree cover.

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The report, which obtains its findings from official Government resources, shows Sheffield lags behind other areas in the region, with Doncaster scoring the highest of 76 per cent, followed by Barnsley and Chesterfield – 72 per cent – and Rotherham – 68 per cent.

Sheffield also trails behind other major cities such as Manchester – 76 per cent, London – 72 per cent, Leeds – 68 per cent – but performs slightly better than Liverpool – 56 per cent.

Meanwhile, Wiltshire topped the table as being the most climate-friendly area with a 92 per cent score followed by Isle of Wight – 88 per cent. In contrast, Pendle, Ribble Valley, and Spelthorne scored the lowest with 40 per cent.

In Sheffield, the report says 38 per cent of emissions come from housing, 25 per cent from transport, and 37 per cent are industrial and commercial emissions.

Extinction Rebellion protestors take part in a funeral march through the city centre with hte red robes and illustrate the deaths of climate protestors around the world who have been murdered for their cause

The report also reveals that only 37 per cent of homes are well-insulated, resulting in a waste of energy, high greenhouse gas emissions, and unnecessarily high energy bills.

There are also those who cannot afford to heat their homes properly with 12 per cent of households in the area living in fuel poverty.

“Upgrading the insulation of 14,958 homes per year within the Sheffield area will ensure all homes are properly insulated by 2030, lifting as many people as possible out of fuel poverty,” it said.

Sheffield also does not fare very well when it comes to public transportation as only 20 per cent of people use the facilities, followed by 13 per cent who choose to walk and a mere two per cent who cycle.

In order for Sheffield to wean itself off oil and gas, it needs to produce more renewable electricity by significantly increasing onshore wind and solar power, the report added.

Currently, Sheffield only has 28MW of renewable power, way below the minimum target of 272MW if it matched the best of similar local authority areas.

“To give an indication of what this means, the average onshore wind turbine in Europe is 2.7MW and a 25-acre solar farm will produce about 5MW of electricity.

“On average, 1MW of renewable power produces enough energy for around 125 homes,” it said.

Sheffield needs to do more to increase tree cover to 27 per cent from the current 13 per cent as trees play an important role in absorbing the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it as carbon.

When it comes to household waste, Sheffield only reuses, recycles and composts 31 per cent of it, compared to 58 per cent in similar local authorities, while Wales has set its local authorities a target of 70 per cent by 2025. The report said: “Sheffield particularly needs to do much better on improving home insulation, increasing renewable energy, and increasing waste recycling.

“Researchers at the Tyndall Centre in Manchester University say Sheffield should reduce emissions by at least 12 per cent per year.” Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth chief executive said: “All local authorities, even the best performing, need to ramp up what they are doing.

“We know we are facing a climate and ecological emergency that threatens our existence and the natural world. If we want to change things for the better, let’s start at home.”

He said the organisation is channelling concern around climate breakdown into tangible solutions by helping the people form climate action groups in their area.

“Local authorities can’t do it all themselves, they need more powers and finance alongside Government action.”

Extinction Rebellion, which has staged a worldwide protest on climate change, said much more must be done, although Sheffield City Council should be applauded for its declaration of a climate emergency.

The environmental pressure group called on Sheffield Council to do more to insulate council housing, alongside identifying low-income groups to energy companies to ensure that companies fulfil their obligation to insulate their homes.

“Currently only 2 per cent of people commute by bike, and 20 per cent by public transport in Sheffield, so the council should work to significantly increase this through creating segregated cycle pathways on all roads and subsidising public transport more.

“As Nottingham has done, this could be funded through a Workplace Parking Levy, which charges employers for every parking space they offer to employers, with revenue being ring-fenced for spending on public transport.

“They could also finance installing more electric vehicle charging points, as there are currently far too few,” a spokesperson said.

In order to increase renewable energy capacity, the council could fund the installation of solar panels on public buildings, which would save the council money long-term by cutting heating bills, the group added. The group said while there are many materials that are not recycled by the municipal waste collection scheme, the council could ensure more materials can be recycled by Veolia, such as tetra packs.