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Felicity Cunliffe-Lister
Liberal Democrats

Survey responses

Pollarded willow, Thirsk

YNY carbon-negative ambition

The ambition for YNY to be England’s first carbon-negative region is at the heart of the devolution deal and the Routemap to Carbon Negative developed by the former YNY Local Enterprise Partnership (now integrated into the CMA). Would you as leader of the new Combined Authority be fully committed to this scale of ambition?  What specific actions would you take in your first two years of office to deliver on that commitment? Can we rely on the sourcing of wood pellets (including from Canadian old growth forests) for use as biomass at Drax and  on ‘negative emissions technology’ such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reach that target?”

I am fully committed to the ambition for the region to be carbon negative by 2040, we can’t rely on Drax to deliver this. I would undertake specific actions that increase efficiencies, use alternative forms of energy and influence our behaviour. My ambition for the first two years would be :

- to engage with the BioYorkshire and BDC research teams to fund and further develop the initiatives that they have been developing in the bio economy that delivers more resilient crops, materials for manufacturing and construction, and green energy. This will involve working hand in hand with farmers to ensure that they engage with the process and embrace it as a positive opportunity - working with groups such as Future Farmers who will be ambassadors for this is important. These initiatives include the growth of bio feedstocks to replace the use of petrochemicals, anaerobic digestion plants that deliver energy (and more importantly capturing the energy produced as hydrogen); the use of potash to improve crop yields and soil structure and at the same time reducing the use of fertilisers; growing hemp in rotation to capture carbon, create hempcrete, and improve yields for the following year’s crop; growing seaweed to capture carbon and to be used in biochar, in building materials, as a bio stimulant to reduce the use of fertilisers, also to reduce methane emissions from cattle. The potential to reduce emissions by enhancing our natural capital is significant.

- to improve housing energy and efficiency (see below for further detail)

- to reduce our reliance on grid supplied energy and support measures for generation. I would raise funding (working with DESNZ and other funding sources) to help fund the installation of solar, hydro and wind projects (one, some or all) on farms and transport depots to create the off-grid power required to create green hydrogen - for those businesses to use to power their vehicles and heavy plant. This is not a grant, but the funding payback and costs would be based on the anticipated cost savings of the project, to ensure it is affordable. Running alongside this would be a similar fund for the installation of the same on industrial sites to create hydrogen for businesses to use to provide heating - either for individual units or for group schemes.

- to create a transport system that is low-carbon (see details below)

- establish a route map to enable community energy and heat hubs to be further developed and installed (to include AD, ground source, waste heat from industry and hydro) considering the current barriers such as the FIT and high installation costs, the off-grid options, and the solutions available to enable this.

- engage with NYC and establish solutions required to enable them to deliver a food waste collection service to NYC residents, to allow for it to remain within the circular economy.

Jobs and skills

The new mayor will have responsibility for developing the region’s skills base as we transition to a low-carbon economy. That is a major challenge as we will be starting from a very low base. What areas do you see as requiring priority action in your first two years as Mayor? What measures will you introduce to support employers in low-zero carbon sectors?

There is a shortage of skilled trades in the low-carbon economy - from heat pump and hydrogen engineers, to EV electricians. In order  to meet the targets set in LEAP there will need to be 355,000 heat pumps installed by 2040. We need skills villages along the lines of the Construction Village at Scarborough, where trades are taught by tradespeople in a working environment on a rolling programme to ensure that the supply of trades is constant. I would also support the provision of courses in colleges to provide the same, but would first ensure that there is no gap between what the industry needs and what the curriculum delivers, for students to be work ready.

I would challenge the current procurement process within developments to ensure that local trades and skills are used in construction, to build up a home grown and viable skills base. Too often we see skills being brought in from outside of the region.

To support the apprentice scheme, I would introduce a top up contribution from the Mayoral fund to meet the difference between the apprentice hourly rate and minimum wage, to encourage applicants into this sector. The Mayoral office would also establish a Levy Transfer Service which would engage with the larger businesses (300+ employees) that pay the apprentice levy and if not used can transfer up to 25% of this to smaller businesses (who also then don’t need to pay 5% towards the training costs). This keeps the apprentice levy within the region - without this any unspent levy would be returned to the treasury.

Housing and energy efficiency

How would you approach the challenge of making our existing and new homes in YNY zero carbon? What is your target for upgrading poorly insulated homes, and how do you propose to eliminate fuel poverty?

I would - to ensure that the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund is fully and effectively delivered to the social housing tenants that qualify within the region and to expand on this with the delivery of the same measures (insulation, heat pumps and double glazing) to private rental sector (only where the landlord has first given an undertaking in return to rent exclusively to those on Universal Credit for a minimum number of years) and to those living in their own homes who are in fuel poverty. This will insulate the homes which are more likely to be inefficient, and deliver the energy savings for those that most need them. I would also fund the provision of solar panels and power storage within all of these homes to help provide the power required for the heat pumps. Installing insulation can be very disruptive, included in the costings would be the use of a house for the occupant to move into while the works are being carried out. The precise costings for this and the number of homes that would benefit from this will not be possible to quantify until in office.

Transport 

Transport will be a major area of responsibility for the new CMA. At present, it’s also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and has proven to be one of the most difficult sectors to decarbonise. If elected, what would be your priority actions to create a transport system fit for a low-carbon future?

I would deliver an integrated transport system that will drive up public transport use and reduce car journeys - this will be a system that delivers a one ticket county wide service that is regular, reliable and connected - not just to other buses but to other forms of transport such as trains and (outside of the county) airports and ferries. Alongside this I would deliver an improved active travel network that connects to transport hubs. I would also help raise funds (such as ZEBRA and others) to replace existing diesel buses with electric or hydrogen powered ones. 

Energy infrastructure

The Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs) produced by the former YNY Local Enterprise Partnership are broadly focused on increasing the supply of clean, renewable energy to replace fossil fuels and on radically improving domestic energy-efficiency. What actions will you prioritise in your first two years to implement these plans?

I would prioritise the following :

- insulation/solar panels in low income homes (see above)

- off-grid solutions that don’t require National Grid infrastructure : agricultural and industrial unit generation of hydrogen, community heat and power hubs using hydro, wind, solar and ground source

These two measures would reduce consumption and also reduce reliance on large scale/grid delivered power.

Nature and biodiversity

The UK as a whole is in the bottom 10% globally and is the worst G7 nation for biodiversity loss.  What do you propose to do to address the nature crisis in our region? How do you intend to involve the food/agricultural sector in this work? What would your priorities be in your first two years in office? Will you commit to implementing the policy recommendations set out in the draft YNY Local Nature Recovery Strategy?

Your link to the YNY Local Nature Recovery System does not include recommendations, it is still at the draft and consultation stage. Please advise if this is not the case. I would be happy to endorse its objectives.

I would involve the food/agricultural sector in the following ways to increase biodiversity :

- Provide them with the support and funding that they need to engage with the carbon and BNG trading scheme. There are gaps in the funding currently available in the schemes – such as funding the planting of trees and not the ongoing maintenance of them, and not compensating farmers for loss of land use for measures such as pond creation

- Engage with farmers to ensure that they buy in to the opportunities that the bio economy offers them. Help setting up trial schemes and showcase the farms that are engaging in initiatives such as growing hemp. Increasing the resilience of plants and improving the soil structure reduces the need for pesticides and fertilisers which increases biodiversity.

- Champion and deliver my catchment natural flood management pledge which will see the funding of measures to hold back peak floodwater on the rivers Nidd, Swale and Ure. These measures improve biodiversity with the creation of wetlands, tree planting and cleaner water to support aquatic life.

- I would also work with developers, Yorkshire Water and planning departments to reduce the levels of surface water that overload the sewage system. Creating attenuation tanks, using water buts, making our hard landscape more porous – these are all measures that need to be built into our infrastructure. I would campaign for more stringent penalties where effluent spills occur to incentivise Yorkshire Water to invest more heavily in increasing its capacity.

- I would push for further testing of water on North Yorkshire’s coast to establish what the causes are for not just the poor quality bathing water events but also the shellfish die back and other events that might be causing the loss of marine life.

Circular economy

One of the pillars of the Routemap to Carbon Negative developed by the former YNY Local Enterprise Partnership is moving towards a circular economy. What do you understand by this and what actions would you take to drive that transition as Mayor in your first two years?

The concept of the circular economy addresses the current “take, make, dispose” approach to our resources and enables them to stay in use within our economy. One sector’s waste becomes another sector’s input.

Small scale measures start at home with using reusable coffee cups and water bottles, composting our food, donating surplus food to food fridges, repairing rather than replacing to large scale ambitions such as using food waste for anaerobic digestion, making beer from waste bread, creating community heat and energy hubs.

Carbon literacy

As mayor, you will oversee major policy programmes designed to take us towards a low-carbon future. Please confirm that you would commit to independent and accredited carbon literacy training (e.g. Carbon Literacy Project) for yourself and your Combined Authority staff to ensure that as a team you have a clear understanding of the underlying science and the policy implications.  If you are not able to make this commitment, please set out your views on carbon literacy training.

I would be happy to commit to carbon literacy training to ensure that the whole team understand the science and the implications of the climate crisis. My only proviso is that this is not a training organisation I am familiar with so I would have to review this against any others in the sector, and clearly if there are current staff who have already received this training it would not necessarily apply to them.

Community engagement

In what way do you propose to create opportunities for community groups to influence future environmental policymaking by the CMA?

The delivery of our carbon negative goals is one of the most important contributions the Mayoral role can make. This won’t be achieved without the engagement of the community and the support of the campaign groups who have worked so hard to bring these issues to the fore. The Mayor’s role is one of a listener and communicator, taking on board all viewpoints, identifying the barriers and gaps in delivery, and enabling communities to take ownership of and pride in the project. This won’t be achieved without engagement with all parties, they will all be of influence. The format for this will vary depending on whether it is scheme specific or ongoing consultation.

Open question

Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your environmental or climate views and/or ambitions?

If you were to ask me what my level of engagement is with helping reduce emissions and improve biodiversity I think it’s important that you are aware of my business record :

1. Following the launch of our hotel, Swinton Park, in 2001, we promptly set about restoring the four acre walled garden. Whilst the HBC Conservation Officer advised we should apply to develop timeshare units within it, we decided to convert it back into a productive garden. Since then it has supplied the hotel, cookery school and campsite with fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables and flowers. Our fork to plate miles are a matter of metres.

2. In 2006 we were the first hotel in England to install a carbon neutral biomass boiler. It now provides all the heating and hot water for the hotel, spa and cookery school.

3. Our natural pool at the spa uses a living microbial filter which produces crystal clear water, without the need for chlorine or any other chemical processes. It is heated by sunshine! The indoor pool has a UV system that minimises the use of chlorine.

4. Our off-grid luxury campsite was launched in 2012. The tree lodges and yurt cabins are insulated with sheep’s fleece, and do not use any electricity. They are heated by wood burners using redundant timber sourced from the estate, there is a biomass boiler for the showers and café, a grey water system, flower meadow and a reed bed for purifying waste water.

5. The Swinton Estate has committed to planting 350 hectares of trees over the next 20 years, planting has already started. It has entered into a research project with NEIRF to develop a case for multifunctional forestry, to act as a pilot to encourage other landowners and tenants to consider the carbon credit market and ecosystem services. It has also taken part in DEFRA’s Landscape Recovery trial to establish how this model can be achieved with farming tenants, including peatland restoration.

6. Other measures within the hotel include an Electric Voltage Optimiser to reduce consumption, eco ozone laundry system, the use of natural fibres within our design, refillable water bottles and use of refillable and recycled plastic bottles for our amenities. All kitchen waste goes to AD biogas, cardboard to pellets, oil to bio diesel and all other waste is incinerated to create electricity. We have invested in the installation of twelve high speed charging units to encourage visitors to use their electric vehicles.

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