Climate change: What does Sheffield need to do and how much has it done?

Sheffield still has a long way to go to tackle climate change as Sheffield Council warns of ‘very significant’ impacts on the city.

Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 10:47 am
Updated Wednesday, 8th December 2021, 11:36 am

Sheffield Council announced its 10 point plan to address the crisis while international climate talks took place at COP26 in Glasgow last month.

The plan was not fully costed but it did outline the challenges that lie ahead, what the city has achieved so far and how much more it still needs to do.

What will the impact of climate change be on Sheffield?

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Climate change protesters.

In a report on it 10 point plan, council officers said the consequences of climate change will be ‘very significant’ in the city and outweigh the impacts of Covid-19, for example.

They said these effects will be wide ranging and include: wetter winters and more intense rainfall throughout the year causing a higher risk of flooding, warmer and drier summers which may impact quantity and quality of food and water supply as well as damage to buildings and infrastructure.

It will also hugely impact the natural ecosystem and biodiversity.

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There is also predicted to be a rise in heat related illnesses, deaths and reduced wellbeing during extreme weather as well as lower productivity and reduced customer numbers.

Food, utilities and other goods and services are expected to rise in costs as well as insurance premiums from damage to homes and property.

Officers warned that those already living in poverty or derived communities will be most affected.

What has Sheffield Council done to tackle climate change so far?

The council said the vast majority of ‘easy’ reductions have already been made and it will take bold action to make the further reductions needed.

One of these actions is implementing a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) from next year which aims to slash emissions in the city centre and speed up the transition to electric and low emitting vehicles.

Under the CAZ, drivers of taxis, lorries, buses, coaches and vans will have to pay a daily charge to drive in the city centre if their vehicle does not meet at least the Euro 6 diesel or Euro 4 petrol emissions standard.

The charge will be £10 a day for taxis and vans and £50 a day for coaches, buses and lorries.

It is also upgrading its own vehicles to electric, training staff on climate awareness, introducing active travel schemes and improving its homes, among other things.

But it warned that it cannot fund or achieve everything needed on its own.

Council officers said: “Our role as a council is to reduce our own emissions and to do what we can to enable change across the city. This includes providing information and making the actions that will benefit our city easier to make.

"Beyond this, each of us as individuals has our own choices to make about how we act.”

Arup’s Pathways to Zero report showed that there had been a 42 percent reduction in carbon emissions since 2005 across key sectors in Sheffield, with much of the reduction in the city, and elsewhere, coming from decarbonising electricity, changes to the fuel industry, improvements in technology and energy efficiency of machinery.

But emissions from transport remain little changed since 2005, like in most UK cities.

Is Sheffield on target to become net zero by 2030?

The council announced it was aiming for the city to become net zero by 2030 and declared a climate emergency in 2019.

Analysis showed that if things continued as they are and all current national and local policy changes are implemented, Sheffield would not even half its emissions by 2050 – meaning more bold action is needed.

What are the biggest contributors to climate change and how are they changing?

The council committed to putting climate change at the heart of all of its decision-making.

Arup said reducing emissions from travel, housing, land and business were key priorities.

Travel: the council said car use will need to be reduced by 66 per cent while the number of public transport, cycling and walking journeys will need to be increased by 80 percent by 2030.

All vehicles will need to be decarbonised and switched to electric or hydrogen and freight will need to be consolidated to decrease delivery journeys, the authority said.

Housing: homes are responsible for 33 per cent of direct and indirect carbon emissions and the council said they are not energy efficient or fit for the future climate.

To tackle this, the council said all new homes should be built to zero carbon standard and existing homes, around 230,000 should be upgraded with high standards of insulation, low energy and electrical appliances, heating and smart controls.

A conservative capital cost of these improvements is estimated to be between £2 billion and £5 billion, which equates to between £8,700 and £21,700 per home.

The council said it alone produces around seven percent of the city’s emissions and of that, 90 per cent comes from its 38,000 homes (16 percent of the total houses in Sheffield).

It also owns 4,000 land and property assets and five per cent of land in the city.

Officers said: “Many of our non-domestic buildings are not only inefficient in energy, but in a poor state of repair, and the maintenance and improvements bill already far outstrips the funding we have available.

“Improving the energy of our homes and buildings will be one of the biggest challenges that we face.”

Business: the business community will also need to play its part. In 2017, it contributed to 35 per cent of Sheffield’s emissions.

The council said they will need to increase energy efficiency, make materials more sustainable, improve insulation in buildings, get more efficient appliances and decarbonise their travel, delivery and heat.

What can individuals do to help tackle climate change?

Council officers said everyone can play their part through the individual choices they make.

They said: “The things that we buy and own, and the way we spend our leisure time, all has an impact on our emissions. For some of us, these emissions can be our most significant.

“We each have our own choices to make about the way we live our lives and how we spend our money, but there is an increasing recognition that reducing our consumption, and in particular the consumption of single use items, will be needed to reduce our carbon emissions.

“The food and drink that we consume every day contributes a large percentage of our personal carbon footprints and is one of the easiest and cheapest ways that we can personally make a difference (particularly by reducing the amount of meat and dairy, particularly red meat, that we eat, the food we waste and how we cook).

“The way our food is grown and reaches our plate (so the amount of processing, packaging, the distance it travels) also makes a significant impact. As much of an issue is the food that we don’t eat. Food is wasted at every stage of the system – with 68kg of food wasted at home per person each year.”