Leeds team pioneers readiness assessment for local climate action

30th July, 2020 - 19:18


So your area has declared a climate emergency – what next? Broad declarations should become specific targets that need to be supported by action plans, but the readiness of places to deliver them is rarely clear-cut.

This has been the challenge faced by Leeds Climate Commission, which has pioneered a methodology to address levels of readiness across sectors.

Andy Gouldson, Chair of the Leeds Climate Commission, said: "We were are all too aware that there are lots of opportunities out there to decarbonise, but that all too often there are also lots of good reasons why these opportunities are not being taken."

To address this, a Commission team headed up by Andy Gouldson, lead officer Tom Knowland and PCAN Network Analyst Amelia Duncan developed  a Climate Action Readiness Assessment (CARA). The process draws on participatory workshops to map how ready Leeds as a city is to take action in different sectors and to identify strategic interventions needed to build  readiness.

From this, the Leeds team hopes to develop an action schedule that starts with areas that can be tackled now, addresses some easier issues that will enable us to act in other areas soon, and that comes up with a plan to tackle the deeper blockages so that action can be taken in other areas in the not-too-distant future.

To do this, the CARA framework focuses on each sector (i.e. housing) and then on the sub-sectors (i.e. council housing) within it. For each sub-sector, and then for each sector, and ultimately for the city as a whole, it considers the technical, policy, community, financial and delivery readiness for climate action. The process scores Leeds' current level of readiness as a city across different levels of ambition ranging from low (40% carbon cuts between now and 2030), medium (60%) and high (90%).

So far in Leeds the framework has been applied to housing and public and commercial buildings, with transport the next big sector to be done. Together, those sectors make up  around 85% of Leeds' direct carbon footprint.

"Early results suggest that, technically, we are completely or largely ready to pursue low to medium levels of ambition in different sectors, but slightly less ready to pursue high levels of ambition. The same is true for levels of community readiness and public support, and for delivery capabilities when it comes to skills availability and supply chains," said Andy Gouldson.

The blockages have been identified as in the policy area at all levels (local, regional and national) and in the financial area. Addressing these key areas could build readiness in other areas. With better policy, finances will be easier to find and with these in place technical readiness should improve and new capabilities for delivery emerge.

"Recognising this means that we have to pin down exactly what policy changes we’d like to see – and, as a Commission, we’re planning more workshops to develop policy briefs to set out what we’re asking at the city, regional and UK scales," said Andy Gouldson.

"It also means adopting a determined focus on finances and exploring new ways of stimulating low carbon investment, including by using the CARA framework as the basis for a low-carbon investment prospectus that presents a pipeline of investor-ready programmes and projects over the coming years.

"All of this can then be translated into a clear, targeted, prioritised plan both for action, highlighting the areas where we’re ready to act now, or will be soon, and those areas where we need to develop targeted interventions to our build readiness to act."

Final results from the CARA process are due to be presented in November 2020.