Leeds Climate Commission launched

3rd September, 2017 - 22:27

A pioneering Climate Commission was launched in Leeds on September 7th to encourage investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient developments that could generate significant economic, social and environmental benefts for the city. 

The Commission was launched by former Environment Secretary and current chair of the UK Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben and leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake. The Commission harnesses the capacity of 24 key businesses and organisations from across the city ranging from Yorkshire Water and the NHS to house builders, transport providers and community groups.

The launch of the Leeds Climate Commission comes at the same time as the University of Leeds have completed the most comprehensive survey yet of UK cities’ energy-saving capabilities. The study assessed the total energy bills of the UK’s 50 biggest cities – which currently amount to over £35 billion a year, and average £1,500 per person. It found that simple, profitable improvements to heating, lighting, insulation, appliances and vehicles would reap extraordinary results for their 23.5 million citizens with total savings of over £7 billion a year, equivalent to an average of £300 per year for every person in the 50 cities.

The manufacturing, installation and maintenance involved in implementing these improvements would create the equivalent of 90,000 years of extra employment in the 50 cities, while carbon emissions from these cities would be cut by almost a quarter more than currently expected.

The up-front cost of the changes would total less than one per cent of GDP annually for the next ten years. Measures such as more efficient lighting in homes or cooling in retail buildings would cover their costs in approximately a year and generate profits thereafter.

Leeds for example could cut its total energy bill by more than £270m a year just by investing in cost-effective energy saving and low carbon measures that would more than pay for themselves over their lifetime. This could reduce transport costs in the city by £150 million a year, household energy bulls by £81 million a year, running costs for schools, hospitals, offices t by £31 million a year and business operating costs by £14 million a year.  Doing this would create 4,200 years of extra employment within the city, and at the same time cut carbon emissions by more than 22% over and above what is happening anyway. 

“The Leeds Climate Commission has been set up to help unlock these opportunities,” said Professor Andy Gouldson, who led the study from the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the University of Leeds. “Garnering investment in practical energy-saving measures is a win-win for all involved. Industry wins, local authorities win, householders win and the climate wins.” 

But Prof Gouldson argues that it won’t happen without some facilitation from central government and a change in the way that local authorities try and do things. 

“Central government would normally fall over themselves to deliver an economic stimulus package or an infrastructure investment on this scale, but they’re not doing that here, perhaps because of austerity and a sense that climate change is economically too challenging,” he said. 

“And local government is facing some significant challenges when it tries to address these issues, given the scale of the cuts they’ve had to face.” However, Prof Gouldson argues that with some lateral thinking they could still do it. “If the public, private and third sectors in a city come together, they can find new ways to get things done. We are delighted that even in the current climate Leeds City Council has backed this initiative and is playing a leading role in creating the environment for productive collaboration”.

Leeds City Council leader Councillor Judith Blake said: 

“In Leeds we are fully committed to creating a low carbon, climate resilient city, and the Leeds Climate Commission takes us another step closer to this.

“It will ensure that organisations across the city come together and really make a move to cut the city’s energy bill and look at how we can pass these savings on to households.”

Leeds has a history of attracting investment (over £10m in 2016/7) to improve the housing stock in the city and is progressing a citywide District Heating scheme, has a successful solar scheme saving 1,200 tonnes of CO2 per year as well as saving housing tenants £130,000 per year on their fuel bills and has launched White Rose Energy, a not-for-profit energy company providing low cost energy to all households with pricing that is fair and transparent.


A new website – ‘Can-do Cities’ - encouraging others to follow Leeds’ example has been launched at candocities.org. It sets out the economic case for low carbon development not only for Leeds, but for each of the UK’s 50 biggest cities and for all local authorities across the UK. Headline savings for key UK cities include:


  • London:- £2.1 billion, equivalent to £240 per person
  • Belfast:- £105 million, equivalent to £316 per person
  • Birmingham:- £307 million, equivalent to £275 per person
  • Bristol:- £122 million, equivalent to £270 per person
  • Cardiff:- £129 million, equivalent to £353 per person
  • Glasgow:- £208 million, equivalent to £344 per person
  • Leeds:-  £272 million, equivalent to £349 per person
  • Liverpool:- £132 million, equivalent to £281 per person
  • Manchester:- £146 million, equivalent to £277 per person
  • Newcastle:- £88 million, equivalent to £309 per person
  • Nottingham:- £84 million, equivalent to £266 per person
  • Sheffield:- £158 million, equivalent to £278 per person


The ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy (http://www.cccep.ac.uk/) is hosted by the University of Leeds and the London School of Economics and Political Science. It is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/). The Centre’s mission is to advance public and private action on climate change through rigorous, innovative research.