The Leeds council offices were buzzing with the sawing of wood and grinding of metal; as the city received representatives from Breda to share best practices on climate change, it was in the process of gutting its own building to combat energy waste.
Climate change does not heed boarders, so neither can the cities seeking to tackle it. Last week, under the auspices of the Covenant of Mayors, representatives from Breda (NL) travelled to Leeds (UK) to discover what each other’s cities were doing to tackle climate change, and how they each might benefit from the other’s example.
Acting as one
Most exciting for Breda was the holistic approach that Leeds takes to climate mitigation and adaption, bringing different stakeholders together through its Climate Commission. All too often in large administrations, it can be difficult for the right hand to know what the left is doing. That is why the Leeds Climate Commission creates working groups that bring together people from different parts of the city council, as well as local business interests, civil society organisations and the local university.
On the one hand, this 24-organisation strong commission can plumb the expertise, understand the concerns, and gather the insights of local stakeholders. On the other hand it ensures that the local government’s actions related to environment, building construction, traffic management and infrastructural projects are well coordinated and all have the subject of climate change in view.
Breda en Leeds zijn een klimaatkoppel! In een Europees 'twinning' project delen we 1,5 jaar lang kennis en ervaring over klimaatmaatregelen #covenanttwinning @eumayors. Op 19 en 20 april was Breda in Leeds. In 2019 komt Leeds bij ons kijken https://t.co/RB7iDS7Br2 pic.twitter.com/Kg1jcrpuFN— Gemeente Breda (@breda) April 25, 2018
This method of teaming up with stakeholders has the added bonus of giving further legitimacy to the government’s climate planning. Breda was very enthusiastic to take this approach back with it, and to achieve a similar degree of holism, adapted to its own context. Factors in Leeds’ success include massive political will to act on climate change, bolstered by a largely consistent attitude held among the city’s elected officials over time; a large enough size that the city’s political and business clout is recognised; and giving its civil servants enough of a free reign to experiment.
Currently, Breda manages its stakeholder engagement on climate change through a ‘Front office’, a building where people can come and ask for information on all subjects related to climate change, as well as getting tools, advice and even funds for projects such as retrofitting their homes for more efficient energy use. This is a service extended both to residents and businesses.
Energy for all
In engaging with its citizens, Leeds is also concerned about energy poverty, and runs programmes such as ‘Warm Well Homes’ as part of its ‘Affordable Warmth Strategy’. Under this programme, health and social care staff have the capacity to approve heating and insulation improvements for patients presenting with symptoms of caused by cold. The city also acts as lender of last resort to residents who can no longer afford their heating.
Leeds is also hoping to lead the whole north of England into a new fuel solution, with its plan to exchange natural gas for hydrogen. This solution has the advantage that it could be carbon neutral, depending on the source of the energy used to purify the hydrogen, and would not require a major infrastructural overhaul, as it could make use of much of the existing gas network.
Through the Covenant of Mayors, Leeds will next visit Breda in 2019 and get a first hand impression of the work being done there for the Dutch city to meet its own ambitious target of becoming CO2 neutral by 2044.
Interested in joining the twinning adventure?
The EU Covenant of Mayors Office will launch its next call for participation to twinning exchanges at the end of June 2018, on https://www.covenantofmayors.eu/en/. Keep posted!
Article published by Breda City Council
International Relations Leeds, 19 April 2018