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Paul Haslam
Independent

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 committed to the routemap. It is important that clear measures and monitoring system are created along with targets. It’s important to prioritise action, make sure all actions are consistent with the end goal.  We must also understand their potential impact on the population, especially those least well off and most vulnerable so that these issues can be mitigated.

It’s quite clear to me that in order to deliver / combat climate change and get to a carbon negative zero situation it’s essential we improve everyone’s life – levelling up in effect, although a now much discredited and toxic wording. Any transition must be a just transition!

Re Drax:

I have concerns over the part that biomass including the sourcing of its feedstock can play in the long run and would monitor this closely. The focus on unproven, at scale, carbon capture storage is also a concern and future choices will be dependent on this. One thing that is clear,  in order to achieve net zero, technology must be developed to remove CO2 gases from the air. We need to continue to develop alternatives such as wave or geothermal from disused mining shafts for example.

With regards to your ask on Drax: the debate is mixed and I am only a lay person reliant on others. Here’s my research:

Drax, a significant player in the UK's energy sector, has embarked on efforts to transition towards renewable energy, particularly through the use of biomass. Biomass, according to Drax, is a crucial element in achieving a zero-carbon future, providing a more stable and reliable source of renewable energy compared to intermittent sources like wind and solar power. By converting organic material such as wood into electricity, Drax claims that biomass can significantly lower carbon emissions compared to traditional fossil fuels and help balance the power grid amidst the rising share of weather-dependent renewables​ (energy.drax)​.

Drax positions itself as a leader in sustainable biomass energy, arguing that the forests from which it sources wood absorb carbon dioxide, offsetting emissions produced when the biomass is burned. The company has also initiated projects like bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to move towards carbon negativity, aiming to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere than it emits. Drax has highlighted its commitment to phasing out coal power and increasing its reliance on biomass, which, as of recent reports, constituted the majority of its electricity generation​ (clientearth)​.

However, the sustainability and carbon neutrality of biomass as a renewable energy source are subjects of significant debate. Critics and environmental groups raise concerns over the impact of biomass on forest ecosystems and carbon sinks. They argue that the removal of trees for biomass energy can deplete forest carbon stocks and that the carbon accounting used to justify biomass as carbon-neutral is overly optimistic. This skepticism extends to the sourcing practices, with allegations that biomass harvesting, particularly in the US, involves clear-cutting of forests, which could lead to deforestation and degradation of ecosystems. Moreover, the reliance on government subsidies for biomass energy and the environmental efficacy of such investments are questioned, with some experts calling biomass a "false solution" to climate change that could divert resources from more effective carbon reduction strategies​ (clientearth)​.

In response to these criticisms, Drax has established an Independent Advisory Board on biomass sourcing and commissions studies to monitor the impact of its wood pellet supply chain on forests. The company maintains that its operations are in line with sustainability guidelines and contribute positively to the environment. Nonetheless, the ongoing debate highlights the complexity of biomass as a solution to climate challenges, underscoring the need for careful consideration of its ecological impact and the methodologies used to assess its sustainability​ (clientearth)​.

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?

My focus is on supporting and bringing jobs and investment in the following sectors. It will all be about innovation which we know is low carbon.

  • Farming and food production and related industries

  • Tourism

  • Manufacturing

  • Rail and Bus innovation

  • Creative and Digital

  • Med and Health Technology

  • The care sector

  • Biotechnology

Bringing better paid jobs to the area and providing the lifelong training, equipping people with skills to ensure these jobs are open to residents. 

My focus on food security, farming and food production, agritech, vertical farms working with and supporting farmers through the transition to regenerative farming practices whilst continuing to protect our food supply, offering great nutritious food that will provide distinctly green jobs.

One opportunity I see in the short term is to retrofit homes. Therefore, it needs the skills to support this industry but we also need the jobs for the trained individuals. I would be looking at the setting up of a company that retrofits houses and homes in partnership with the affordable homes sector - that would create an instant market of 50,000 or so homes to refit therefore a sizeable market on which to build a business.

Additionally, the materials required to retrofit offers an opportunity to create businesses locally that supply materials to the retrofitting company.

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?

The local plan is the responsibility of the constituent councils. As climate change champion I have written to all councillors suggesting ways that the council could develop their plan. It should be remembered that building regulations are the minimum standard of build and not the standard of build.

As mayor I would continue to influence that stance by working on affordable homes, especially on brownfield sites and by collaborating with the Affordable homes sector to develop / turbo charge the retrofit industry locally.

We need to build 10,000 more affordable homes, preferably that are energy efficient and keeping living costs down.

By retrofitting homes - starting with the affordable sector where there are 50,000 homes that need retrofitting that not only saves CO2 emissions but saves roughly 2/3rds the annual current energy costs.

I believe this could develop the market and build local capacity that means all homes will eventually be retrofitted by local businesses and locally produced materials.

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?

As Mayor the urgent focus on a better integrated public transport that is safe for all to use (primarily focused on the bus) and reducing the cost of getting about, but also significant in the reduction in CO2 by creating modal shift through offering cheaper, reliable alternatives.

Safe transport hubs in towns. Seeking better use of the rail network, considering new stations and/or new rail links.

Reducing CO2 emissions is proving difficult - an area  in which we are currently failing massively.

The local transport plan must emphasise and allow all future developments (relating to each council’s local plan) that they have equal access to transport options of walking and cycling, public transport as well as the car.

As Mayor I would promote the development of safe shared space and cycling routes, with a focus on those that have greatest impact. (Always following consultation with local residents)

Develop an integrated public transport system around the bus. This is important for many reasons - getting people around on a reliable (trustworthy), and low cost system, reducing congestion on the road, eliminating the need for car ownership and therefore enabling modal shift.

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?

To set up a delivery group and to pilot the biggest impact opportunities and to pilot the quick wins. Communication and engagement will be key and consultation potentially in the form a citizen assembly might be the best way forward.

The cost of this change is significant and (external) funding will needed. The cost and risk of not acting fast enough needs to be balanced against any potential cost. Bearing in mind the cost of living crisis we need to be sensitive as to how this is delivered, maximising the benefits to all whilst minimising the cost to the individual.

We should also learn from others who are further along this development. I do not believe in reinventing the wheel.

Like all projects it needs to be managed with effective governance.

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?

Of course. To paraphrase Steve Jobs “We employ experts not to tell them what to do, but to tell us what to do!”

Food Security, The farming sector and food production are my primary economic strategy including assisting / supporting the farmers as custodians of the land to embrace / transition to more environmentally sustainable ways of farming and land management.

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?

Setting up Waste Free (York and North) Yorkshire showcasing best practice and encouraging this at all levels from large industry to the charity shops and things in between. We must make sure things are built better, last longer and either repurposed, reused or in the end put back into feedstock for business.

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 have completed the one day carbon literacy training twice – once in 2020 – certificate attached and again in the last month.

All members of the Combined Authority Team will undergo climate literacy training – that is targeted in understanding the key part that the CA can play and will play in this. We must lead from the front.

There will also be a review of project management training to ensure we are focused on delivery, on time, on budget!

Community engagement

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

As Climate Change Champion for North Yorkshire I am seeking the development of a website where all environmental groups can Network.  They will have a page/section that covers what they do, what expertise they have, what expertise they seek, a call for volunteers etc.

I have promised quarterly “meet the Mayor” townhall style meetings.

Engagement, communication and consultation - the Mayor’s office must listen to all residents to come to informed decisions. We are not good enough on this in all aspects of council working currently. Consultation needs to be commensurate to the size of the problem.

It is important that people are fully informed about the issues. I would envision some significant consultations on climate change as part of the development and adoption of climate change policy and action.

Open question

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

Fighting climate change is the (my) mission for our generation. Climate change’s impact will be and already is, devastating. It needs a coherent long term plan that is followed and managed, including managing emerging outcomes. We will also need to plan adaptation strategies, especially to protect amongst other things, our food production, those that are more vulnerable / affected differently by climate change.

We must ensure that everyone benefits from the move to net zero, creating a more equal society.

All my policies lead with improving the life of the individual; however they have significant co benefits of reducing CO2 emissions

To produce a sustainable future we have to have a sustainable present.

I have been active in championing climate change since I joined the Council in 2014

My approach to being the Combined Authority Mayor will be to get things done. I’m persistent, some might say relentless. I value action above rhetoric.

I try to lead by example. At home I have solar panels that generate 10000 Kwh annually, Battery storge of 7.5 kwh, air source heat pumps and drive a plug in hybrid car. I say this is not to impress but to impress upon you that I understand their operation.

Free from the constraints of party politics, I believe that I have the right blend of anger and courage, the curiosity and the expertise to not only champion but embed combating climate change into our future.

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