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Council provides update on work programme for tackling climate change

Published Tuesday, 10 May 2022

City of York Council has published its Climate Change action update to inform residents of the work currently underway to tackle the causes and impacts of climate change at a local level.

In 2019, City of York council declared a Climate Emergency and set its ambition for York to become a net-zero carbon city by 2030. Since then, over £345 million of investment has led to a steady stream of activity to turn this ambition into reality.

Cllr Paula Widdowson, Executive Member for Environment and Climate change said:

We want residents to understand what their council is doing to tackle climate change on a local level, to give them ideas for steps they can take in their own home or business, and to inspire them to join the collective effort to improve our environment here in York.

“Whilst the council’s first Climate Change Strategy will be published later this year, knowing that our ambition is net zero, many projects and initiatives have taken steps towards better managing our use of energy, protecting green spaces and improving air quality across the city to build a cleaner, greener city.

“The council is responsible for less than 4 per cent of the city’s total carbon emissions, yet through our projects and activities, we can have a bigger impact. Over £345 million has been invested across a range of projects that collectively will bring us all closer to net zero.

Activity is underway across 8 strategic areas of the council.

Strategy and reporting

The council are leading on the development of the city’s Climate Change Strategy and Local Transport Plan (LTP), which will set the framework to both reduce carbon emissions and be more climate resilient by 2030. The LTP will set our future transport priorities. During the summer, residents will be invited to comment on the draft Climate Change Strategy.

To better understand the scale of ambition and the impact we are making, the council has established annual emissions reporting to benchmark and track city-wide and council progress in reducing emission. Annual reporting is part of our commitment to demonstrate openness and accountability in achieving the net zero carbon goal.

In addition, the council is also working to incorporate Carbon Emissions as part of the decision-making framework and screening process for council projects and policies.


Buildings across the city represent over 61% of all emissions. Tacking buildings is a priority for the council and following the most recent Executive Member for Environment and Climate Change Decision Session the council will begin developing Decarbonisation Plans for some of its highest emitting corporate buildings, unlocking government funding through the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.

In addition, the council is making improvements to the energy efficiency of homes across the city through the Council Housing Energy Retrofit Programme and schemes for homeowners such as the Home Upgrade Grant (HUG), providing funding for insulation and renewable technologies for low-income households.

The Housing Delivery Programme has set out a design guide that describes minimum sustainable standards, with York currently undertaking a large house building programme which will lead to around 600 new homes built to Passivhaus standard in the city, at least 40% of which will be affordable.

The Guildhall reopened this month, following extensive refurbishment, which incorporates low carbon measures including water source heat-pump and triple-glazing as part of the wider renovation work, reducing carbon emissions by 40 tonnes a year.


Transport contributes around 28% of the city’s carbon emissions and the council is taking steps to improve the sustainability of how people and goods get in and move around the city. In 2020, York became the first and only city in the country to voluntarily introduce a clean air zone for buses, aimed at reducing exhaust emissions, as part of a bid to tackle pollution.

The council was recently awarded £17.36 million over 3 years to support the development of key bus schemes and initiatives across the city. In March, the authority was awarded £8.4 million to support the purchase of an additional 44 electric buses to add to the 33 already in service on the park and ride network. Read more about the £17 million boost for local bus services.

The 4-year Fleet Electrification programme will cover all vehicles under 3.5 tonnes and the council’s Heavy Good Vehicles (HGVs) will all be of the highest environmental standards.

The council’s electric vehicle (EV) Strategy supports residents to travel more sustainably with the creation of EV charging Hyper Hubs due to open shortly at the Monks Cross and Poppleton Bar Park and Ride sites.

The council have allocated around £3.3 million to support active travel schemes across the city to be implemented by 2023. The Active Travel Programme includes a range of improvements, new infrastructure, and active travel initiatives such as people streets.

Recently, the Executive Member for Transport announced the current scheme with TIER Mobility, under the Department for Transport e-scooter trial, has been extended until November 2022 in line with government extension of the trial.

Furthermore, the iTravel team continue to provide advice, resources, and support to help residents get around York sustainably.

As well as corporate and resident travel, the council is looking into solutions to reduce the carbon emissions of logistics and goods deliveries. This work includes feasibility studies and schemes researching solutions to deliveries travelling in to and out of the city centre.

Natural Environment

Since purchasing a 194-acre arable farm to the west of York, the council have now begun planting the site which will grow to become York Community Woodland. The area will become home to over 50,000 trees by 2023 with an ambition to increase this to over 210,000 by 2050.

Most recently at the site, an area of 70 trees was planted to commemorate Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee and York’s awarded status of Queen’s Green Canopy Champion City. More opportunities for tree planting and community involvement will be provided by delivery partner Forestry England and commence next Autumn as the next tree planting season begins.

In addition to the woodland, the council has committed to increase the city-wide tree canopy from 10.3% to 13% by 2050, approximately increasing York’s tree population by 10,000 a year which equates to over 30 football pitches. To support this ambition the council have recently secured a £25,000 grant from the White Rose Forest to assess and digitally map new urban tree planting opportunities across the city.

Furthermore, work is underway to map out areas of the city which could be suitable for small scale woodlands or designated green spaces.

Energy Supply

The council are undertaking a ‘whole system’ approach to improving the sustainability of York’s energy system. Developing a Local Are Energy Plan will integrate heat, power and transport alongside local stakeholder knowledge, to deliver a comprehensive, data-driven and cost-effective plan for decarbonising our local energy supply.

The council is also supporting Solar for Schools, inviting schools to access free solar panel installations, reducing their energy bills and reducing carbon emissions

Waste and Recycling

Since 2014 the council have worked with partners to deliver the Allerton Waste Recovery Park project. The facility processes up to 320,000 tonnes of waste per year, separating recyclable plastic and metal whilst also treating the organic waste to produce biogas which generates renewable electricity. In addition, any waste left after this process has taken place is burnt, producing steam to feed an electricity generating turbine that produces enough electricity to supply about 40,000 homes. To find out more, watch York Waste Journey YouTube video.

In 2021, the council introduced the first two zero-emissions electric waste vehicles (eCollects) trade waste collections in the historic city. The vehicles, locally known as ThunderTrucks, work six days a week. As they are fully electric, they also cause less noise pollution within the city centre.

Commerce & Industry

The council’s Economic Growth team promotes support for local businesses looking to reduce their environmental impact through access to business sustainability programmes, funding and relevant events.

Businesses interested in accessing this support can get in contact with the council’s Economic Growth team via email: and can also sign up to regular business email updates covering a range of support and resources.

Businesses who would like support in developing a sustainable travel plan for employees, or help implementing an existing plan can also get advice from the iTravel team.

In addition, the council is working with York’s academic institutions and business community to support skills and training for green jobs.


To help residents stay informed about climate change action and carbon reduction initiatives in York, the council have established a monthly climate change newsletter which residents can sign up to.

In 2021 the council heard from around 2,000 residents through the Our Big Conversation Core Strategies survey to gather information on residents’ and businesses’ attitudes to carbon reduction, transport, and the economy.

In 2022, the council will be carrying out a second, more focussed phase of engagement on these same topics, working with under-represented audiences and carrying out focus groups to help inform the final development of key strategies and their implementation.

The Climate Change Action Plan will be taken to a Executive Member Decision Session on Wednesday 11 May.