Leeds City Council has earned recognition as one of 119 cities worldwide displaying strong leadership in environmental action and transparency, as per a new list released by the prestigious international authority, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). This achievement comes despite the challenges posed by a difficult global economic situation.

For the second consecutive year, Leeds joins the ranks of esteemed cities such as New York, Paris, Melbourne, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, and Cape Town on the CDP’s annual A List. Out of over 900 global cities rated in 2023, only 13% achieved an ‘A’ grade.

The city has made significant strides in reducing its contribution to climate change, with a 38% decrease in annual greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, dropping from 6.3 to 3.9 million tonnes of carbon. Over a similar period, the council’s own carbon footprint has diminished by nearly two-thirds (63%).

Addressing environmental impact has long been a crucial objective for Leeds City Council. In 2019, representatives from all political parties voted to declare a ‘climate emergency’ and expedite efforts to achieve ‘net zero’ emissions, while also urging the national government to provide the necessary resources and authority.

Since 2016, the council has secured and allocated funding exceeding £850 million for projects aimed at climate change reduction or adaptation. The local authority consistently updates key policy documents, ensuring alignment with the city’s climate goals, as outlined in the council’s Best City Ambition.

Efforts to assist households in saving energy and money through green home upgrades have been a focal point of the council’s response to the climate emergency. Domestic properties account for nearly one-third of the city’s carbon footprint. The council pledged £100 million in 2021 to enhance the energy efficiency of its homes, with over £60 million in completed projects benefiting thousands of residents.

A forthcoming council campaign aims to educate homeowners and landlords in Leeds about available support for energy-saving measures. This initiative aligns with the authority’s Net Zero Homes Plan, ensuring residents can take advantage of time-limited funded support for properties without gas boilers.

Simultaneously, the council is soliciting feedback on proposed local planning policies that, if approved, would mandate all new homes in Leeds to adhere to efficient net zero standards from 2027 and be designed to better withstand the city’s future climate.

Support for businesses in Leeds to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the net zero transition is integral to the council’s updated Inclusive Growth Strategy. The Business Sustainability Scheme, launched in collaboration with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, offers support for small and medium-sized enterprises to measure and reduce their carbon footprint.

Private sector building managers and developers are now benefitting from the Leeds PIPES heating network, providing affordable, reliable, and low-carbon heat. The council estimates collective savings of nearly £490,000 in reduced energy costs for existing customers in the current year alone.

Ongoing efforts to improve transport options in Leeds are part of the Connecting Leeds Transport Strategy, aiming to reduce emissions linked to vehicle use. The strategy’s progress, including the successful launch of Leeds City Bikes, the UK’s largest all-electric docked bike hire scheme, will be detailed in an upcoming report.

Scientists predict an increased likelihood of extreme and prolonged heatwaves, winter flooding, and summer drought in Leeds until global net zero is achieved. In addition to reducing the city’s contribution to global warming, the council is investing in flood alleviation schemes to mitigate the future impacts of extreme weather.

Councillor Mohammed Rafique, Leeds City Council’s executive member for climate, energy, environment and green space, said; “I am incredibly proud that the city’s efforts on climate have been recognised and that Leeds has once again been identified as a global leader when it comes to local climate action.

“Tackling climate change by supporting people to make more sustainable choices which can improve our quality of life is at the heart of our Best City Ambition.

“Over the last eight years, we’ve secured and committed a massive investment—£850 million—into our city for climate schemes, mostly from external grants. This money is already having immediate benefits for the people of Leeds.

“Leeds is an ambitious city. Despite an incredibly challenging financial situation shared by councils nationwide and a changing policy environment, we have made great progress. We will continue taking bold action to help households, support businesses, improve transport, and reduce the future impacts of extreme weather.

“However, when councillors from all parties in Leeds voted to declare a climate emergency in 2019, they simultaneously called on government to provide the resources and powers to make net zero possible. I believe that call is as relevant today as it was then.”