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KJSA logoThe physical environment and climate change


Over future years, the climate in Kirklees, along with regional, national and global environments, will change as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. It will likely become warmer with more extremes of weather, and with increased risk of flooding. Much of this is from human activities, the carbon emissions responsible for these changes in Kirklees are predominantly from generating electricity, domestic heating, and transport.

Climate change is likely to have a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of people living in Kirklees, especially those in vulnerable groups, with pre-existing health conditions, and living in areas of socio-economic deprivation.

This is a global issue, but the impacts will also be experienced locally, and Kirklees, like everywhere else, has a part to play, both in terms of reducing emissions (mitigation) and adapting to a changing climate. Climate change needs to be addressed across society, from the largest companies and organisations down to individual households.  There are a wealth of assets in Kirklees to help reduce both the contribution to, and impact of climate change, if developed and utilised correctly. Many of the things we can do to reduce carbon emissions, especially with fuels, housing, and transport, also help improve health and wellbeing in other ways.

Why is this issue important? 

The UK is already affected by rising temperatures. The most recent decade (2008-2017) has been on average 0.8 °C warmer than the 1961-1990 average (1). All ten of the warmest years in the UK have occurred since 1990, with the nine warmest occurring since 2002. Along with warming of the earth’s surface and oceans, glaciers and ice are melting, sea levels are rising, and weather events becoming more extreme. It is predicted that this trend will continue into the future, with the likely impacts on areas such as Kirklees outlined in figure 1. 

Figure 1 Predicted low and high emission scenario changes in temperature and precipitation. All results are for the 10th-90th percentile range for the 2060-2079 period (Met Office, DEFRA, DBEIS, Environmental Agency, © 2018).

Kirklees as a part of the national community, and the UK as a part of the global community have a responsibility to address the causes of climate change. The UK has committed to net zero emissions by 2050, a modified target from the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Kirklees also has a responsibility to prepare for the impacts climate change may have. The effects of climate change are already being felt in Kirklees, as they are elsewhere in the country, with regular flooding, hotter summers, and more extreme weather events. These all have significant but disproportional impacts on Kirklees residents’ physical and mental health and wellbeing.

What would an asset-based approach to climate change look like?

An asset-based approach starts with ‘what’s strong’ rather than what’s wrong. Please see the assets section for more information about our approach to understanding assets in the KJSA.

An asset-based approach to climate change is based around the many strengths that Kirklees has. There are systems, organisations, communities, and leaders committed to tackling climate change; natural resources for clean energy generation; the support and motivation for change and adaptation; and the evidence to support these processes.

Although many of these assets focus on prevention, even with significantly reduced emissions, the greenhouse gasses already in the atmosphere will continue to enhance the effects of climate change, all be it at a slower rate.  Accordingly, there is a need for pro-active risk management and reaction. Once again assets are already in place. Floods, storms, heatwaves, and the effects these have on health and wellbeing are not new. As they become more frequent and severe, Kirklees will need to ensure that in an increasingly unpredictable environment, it is well adapted to make sure that its population is protected.

What are the assets around this issue?

National and Local government are aligned in the need to address the causes and results of climate change. Kirklees Council has declared a climate emergency, and has formed a climate emergency working party, working towards the outcome of a clean and green Kirklees. The working party is currently completing its final report. Following this work, the council is developing an ambitious, evidence based and long-term transformational programme to work with partners to address the emergency and develop an ambitious programme of carbon-reduction activity.  More information on the Kirklees climate emergency can be found Linked to this, the council is also tackling air quality issues via the Air Quality Strategy and Action Plan in tandem with bringing forward carbon reduction proposals.

Extensive further assets exist in Kirklees already, addressing both the causes and consequences of climate change:

Assets around the causes of climate change

Agriculture & the Environment

The White Rose Forest is a joint venture aimed at increasing tree cover by a third across a number of Yorkshire local authorities, including Kirklees, as a key part of the Northern Forest initiative. A significant portion of western Kirklees is also upland blanket bog. Whilst this has been a historically degraded area of habitat, recent restoration initiatives should ensure that this becomes, once again, a functioning carbon sink.

Partnership Working

The Leeds City Region resource efficiency fund provides support and advice for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Kirklees, and the areas around Leeds, to become more sustainable. An estimated 609 tonnes of carbon dioxide have been saved in Kirklees by the 170 businesses that have so far engaged. The Kirklees economic strategy supports local sourcing and joint working, further helping the council and local businesses to cut emissions.

Education & Awareness

The UK is a country that champions issues around climate change, and its population are the fifth most aware of climate change in the world (2). Locally, the climate emergency working party is planning a Kirklees Youth Summit with a climate emergency focus, and working on an engagement campaign with council staff. Other national resources are available for producers to aid consumers in making informed choices about their carbon footprint, such as the Carbon Trust’s product footprint certification (3).

Energy Generation

Kirklees’s greatest asset is its people. They spend 8.5% of what they earn on energy; £708 million per year (4). Potential benefits to the Kirklees population through energy efficiency and low carbon options amount to £137 million, a 24% reduction in carbon emissions, and nearly 2000 years of employment in the area. The Kirklees local plan technical paper on renewable and low carbon energy provides an idea of how sustainable energy, in line with the national planning policy framework, is being implemented in Kirklees (5):

  • Opportunities for renewable and low carbon energy exist in Kirklees and the surrounding authorities. The most significant of these is commercial and small scale wind energy (6,7). Work has been done to look at the practicalities and impacts of implementing wind power, with landscape sensitivity assessments, as discussed in the Kirklees Local Plan (8–11). Along with wind, further opportunities for renewable and low-carbon energy include solar, hydro, biomass combustion, and biomass anaerobic digestion.
  • Biomass fuel can be grown across Kirklees, and along with solar panels, provides local potential for low-carbon heating (7). Accordingly, solar panels have already been fitted to 600 council houses. Following heat mapping the possibility of a heat network supplied by energy from local waste around Huddersfield centre and the Leeds Road area is in development.
  • The council has also completed a feasibility study into the potential for a Huddersfield Heat Network, aiming to take waste heat and power from the Huddersfield Energy-from-Waste plant to supply the Huddersfield Town Centre. This will provide lower carbon, lower cost and more resilient energy for partners who sign up. The scheme is currently progressing to detailed project development.

Housing & Communities

In the last six years over 1000 council properties have had wall insulation, and almost 2000 have had loft insulation. A further 130 private homes have benefitted as part of the Leeds City Region’s Better Homes Yorkshire energy efficiency scheme.

Transport & Planning

The local planning authority considers environmental resilience in decisions as outlined within the National Planning Policy Framework (5). There are Health Impact Assessments for new developments, strategies to promote walking and cycling, and the development of greenspaces. This means that local plans are sustainable and should help tackle climate change and its impacts.

Kirklees Council has worked to reduce emissions related to transport. For example, 59% of streetlights in Kirklees use environmentally-friendly LEDs, and where appropriate, charging points for electric cars are built into the conditions for new residential and commercial developments (12).

Kirklees has a well-developed public transport network, with 6.7% of journeys to work by bus or train (13). A further 10.9% of journeys to work are by bike or on foot, but the majority, 73.4%, are by private vehicle or taxi. 4.5% work from home, requiring no emissions to travel to their place of work.

Waste Management

Kirklees has the lowest recycling rate in Yorkshire and the Humber at 27% in 2017/2018, well below the national rate of 45.2%, and below the 50% EU target aim for 2020 (14). Much of the waste in Kirklees is incinerated in the energy-from-waste plant to produce energy and reduce waste mass (it also allows recycling of left-over metals). This cuts down on the need to transport large amounts of waste around, provides control over odour and noise, and destroys harmful waste. Although it releases carbon dioxide, more so than burning conventional fuel does, it prevents the release of more potent greenhouse gases such as methane that are released in the breakdown of landfill waste. As noted above, the council is also developing a Huddersfield Heat Network Scheme, aiming to take waste heat and power from the energy-from-waste plant and supply the town centre.

Addressing the consequences of climate change

Given that the dangers of extreme weather and flooding are nothing new, measures are already in place to help protect people, property, and infrastructure from damage. Kirklees has an emergency planning strategy based around climate change to prepare for alterations in future needs.

Climate Assets

Warmer winters and fewer frost days may help reduce cold-related winter mortality, and the associated strain on healthcare services. However, this is far outweighed by the negative health and wellbeing implications, and may be hidden amongst lower domestic temperatures through increased fuel poverty despite global warming.

What significant factors are affecting this issue?

Human behaviour plays a large role in climate change, ranging from an industrial scale through to individual decisions.

The largest contributor to climate change is carbon dioxide. This is released by burning fossil fuels for energy, by agriculture and deforestation, and in the manufacture of cement, chemicals, and metals. It is normally absorbed by plants and the oceans, although with the added effect of global deforestation, these cannot keep up with production.

The UK has cut emissions by 40% since 1990, whilst still growing the economy by 72% (15). There is still a long way to go for targets to be met, and even if the UK has a net-zero carbon output by 2050, it will still have to adapt to an altered climate caused by the damage already done.

What does the local data tell us?

Emissions come from production of energy and resources in Kirklees, and consumption of energy and resources that have come from outside Kirklees (4).


Figure 2:  Percentage split of emissions in 2015 and 2035, based off data from PBCAN, University of Leeds, 2017


Figure 3: Percentage split of CO2 emissions in 2010, based off data from PBCAN, University of Leeds, 2017.

Which groups are affected most by this issue?

Climate change is a problem with global impact. However, across Kirklees, the effects of climate change are not shared evenly throughout society. Predominantly it is vulnerable groups such as the elderly and those living with socio-economic deprivation who will be at greatest risk from the consequences of climate change.

Extremes of Temperatures

Extremes of temperature can lead directly to deaths, and the UK climate change risk assessment (CCRA) raises high summer temperatures in buildings as a particular health concern (5). This is especially problematic for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and young people, those with co-existing physical illness, and those without suitable housing. Energy is needed to heat and cool homes, especially if temperatures are more extreme. However as both demand increases, and (unless sustainable and low carbon energy is used) supply decreases, it is likely the prices of energy will increase. Fuel poverty levels are already higher than the national average in Kirklees (13.1% compared to 11.1%), and cold damp houses are known to cause poor health (16). This would increase the risk of illness to those living with economic deprivation, many of whom are already disproportionally affected by also having vulnerabilities such as pre-existing physical illness.

Other temperature effects may be more subtle. Those working outdoors are likely to be exposed to increased heat and UV, causing short and long term health risks. High temperatures increase air pollutant and pollen levels, triggering asthmatic and other cardio-respiratory illnesses, especially for those living in urban areas (5). Further inequalities around air quality are discussed in the air quality section, but because of the shared causes and consequences, they are relevant when considering the effects of climate change.

Extreme Weather Events and Flooding

Another key risk from climate change highlighted in the UK CCRA is flooding. In Kirklees this predominantly affects people living and working in areas of high flooding risk, mostly along the Holme, Colne, and Calder Valleys. Those owning and working for small and medium sized businesses (SME) along the watercourses of Kirklees are disproportionally at risk (17). They are potentially underprepared and underinsured for climate change, partly as an estimated 74% of SME owners do not see climate change as a business risk (18). House prices in rural areas such as the Colne and Holme Valleys are correlated to flood risk; those who cannot afford more expensive property are most likely to suffer the consequences of flooding (19). This is especially problematic in Kirklees where there is a net imbalance of affordable housing (16). Looking at the consequences of flood damage, both personal and commercial property loss is associated with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Severe weather has already impacted on transport infrastructure, with roads, railways, and airports struggling to stay open in adverse conditions. Not only does this limit access to community resources and increase isolation, but it can mean that mobile care services are unable to reach those that need them. Again this affects all groups unable to fully care for themselves disproportionately.

Further risks of climate change such as fires and storms are more difficult to predict. However, their effect is most likely to be felt by those who (for whatever reason) are unable to prepare, unable to adapt, or are unaware of the risks.

Where is this causing greatest concern?

Extreme Temperatures

There will be challenges in places where health services are delivered. Be this at hospitals, GP practices, pharmacies, resource centres, community hubs etc., or at people’s homes, where mobile care is provided. The same problems face domestic, commercial and industrial buildings, which may not have been designed to accommodate people in an increasingly dynamic environment. Outdoor spaces, transport infrastructure, and green spaces will be similarly affected.

Extreme Weather Events and Flooding

Climate change will increase flood risk in Kirklees, through its impacts on river flow and rainfall intensity. The Calder, its tributaries the Colne and Holme, and approximately 5000 other smaller watercourses flow through Kirklees. Around these watercourses there has been significant recent flooding in 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019. The wards along these main rivers contain housing, transport and public service infrastructure, commercial and industrial enterprises, agricultural land and environmental and cultural heritage that is at significant risk of future flooding. There is further flooding risk from sewer overflow and ground water flooding (especially around Mirfield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Meltham), and lesser risk from the region’s canals and reservoirs (20). Details on flood risk, and advice on development can be found in the Calderdale Catchment Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (20).

Views of local people

Given the cost of non-sustainable fuels and the synergy between economic and carbon savings, it is worth considering that in Kirklees 1 in 5 have regular money concerns, and 2 in 3 worry about money at least some of the time. This is disproportionately high in younger adults and with single parents (21).

What could commissioners and service planners consider?

As with all sections of the KJSA, it is important for commissioners and services planners to:

  • Start with ‘what’s strong rather than what’s wrong’ by understanding and building on the existing and emerging local community assets and examples of ‘people helping people’ described above.
  • Consider the impact on Protected Characteristic Groups and give due regard to the elements of the Public Sector Equality Duty to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people. Refer to the inequalities overview for more information.

More specifically, there is action that can be taken around the causes and consequences of climate change, as outlined below. The upcoming climate emergency working party’s report, as well as documents such as the air quality action plan, housing strategy, economic strategy, and health and wellbeing plan provide further advice.

Agriculture & the Environment

Understand how we use agricultural land, manage longer-term food security, and make the most of green spaces and biodiversity to mitigate climate change. In part, this is achieved by continued support of the White Rose Forest Partnership and by restoring and regenerating habitats that act as carbon sinks. However, planners should also consider the impact of new buildings and development on existing green spaces and biodiversity.

Awareness & Education

  • Present a clear and united picture of climate change in Kirklees.
  • Ensure that people are facilitated in understanding the “carbon footprint” and environmental impact of decisions that they make, as well as made aware of the significance of their choices.
  • Develop skills for low carbon living and working locally so that communities are able to adapt to a changing climate.


  • Continue to invest in low-carbon and sustainable energy, utilising the energy assets that Kirklees has.
  • Make sure domestic and commercial consumers are able to make an informed decision about what energy they use, and the impact it might have on the climate.
  • Where possible reduce energy expenditure by improving efficiency and reducing use.


Continue to ensure that Kirklees is fully prepared for the effects of increased flooding, as much of Kirklees is within high risk flood zones. The increased risk of flooding in high-risk areas outlined in the strategic flood risk assessment should be considered in planning and development decisions (20).


Large carbon savings can be had by retro-fitting and modifying heating and insulation in domestic housing, and in reducing the use of electricity in the household. These changes are also cost-effective. Low energy lighting and efficient appliances offer similar benefits. The cost benefit of such interventions help tackle inequalities in health around climate change, many of which are based around socio-economic deprivation. Passive cooling, measures to reduce indoor moisture, and where appropriate property-level flood protection help mitigate the likely consequences of climate change (22).

New homes and buildings should be built to be low-carbon, energy efficient, water efficient, and climate resilient (in line with the below planning strategy).

Partnership Working

  • Continued development of the Climate Change Emergency.
  • The development of a clear partnership approach to tackling climate change in Kirklees, establishing a framework for the following recommendations to take place.
  • As Kirklees’s largest employers, Kirklees Council, local NHS provider organisations and anchor institutions should take a proactive approach to reducing their carbon emissions and work in partnership to achieve greater savings and efficiencies.
  • Promote awareness of the cost and carbon savings that can be had, and the support available for businesses to reduce emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change (as described in assets). This may involve efficient cooling in retail buildings, good commercial insulation, and efficient industrial equipment and systems (4).
  • In line with the Kirklees Economic Strategy promote local sourcing and joint and partnership working, helping reduce carbon emissions, make financial savings, and bolstering the local economy (23).

Transport & Planning

Sustainability appraisal needs to be used to shape strategies in line with the ambition of the Climate Change Act (24). This can be through mitigating emissions by reducing the need to travel, by providing sustainable transport options, and by influencing those using transport. Examples of sustainable transport strategy include:

  • Creating an environment that enables and encourages walking and cycling, linking synergistically with the additional benefits of exercise and clean air.
  • Creating accessible, connected, and inclusive communities, with the further effect of increased resilience, access to resources, and improved wellness.
  • Reducing the need for new development to require increased road capacity, further helping with air quality.
  • Facilitating and promoting the domestic and commercial use of low-emission, hybrid and electric vehicles.
  • Accessible and practical sustainable public transport options for residents of Kirklees, helping improve air quality, and access to work, education, and communities. This needs to include an understanding of barriers to using public transport, especially around perceived or actual cost.

Beyond transport, sustainable planning approaches can provide opportunities for de-centralised, renewable and low carbon energy technologies and promote low carbon design approaches to reduce energy consumption in buildings.

Waste management

Reduce the amount of waste produced, and increase the amount that is re-used and recycled in line with EU targets. There should be a focus on enabling domestic and commercial positive waste management behaviour. More information on how businesses can achieve this can be found in the business waste handbook, available from here.


Consider the likely impacts of changing weather patterns, specifically increased summer temperatures and increased adverse weather events, during design and planning decisions. Support individuals, communities and organisations to adapt to these changes.


Commissioners and service planners need to create a space in which individuals are facilitated to live sustainably, and are able to make positive choices. Some of the simple things that we as individuals can do to help tackle climate change include:

  • Individuals need to engage with climate change action, and make their voices heard. Those in a position to make decisions about the environment, green spaces, roads, cycling, waste, recycling, air quality, energy and homes need to listen in turn.
  • Eat less meat and dairy, and eat fresh, local, and seasonal produce. This impacts positively on climate change, and can be beneficial for health.
  • Cut back on flying, using alternatives like trains, local holidays, or video-conferencing for work. Where flying is unavoidable, consider flying economy, and carbon offsetting.
  • Leave the car at home, both to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to cut air pollution contributions. Electric and hybrid cars can reduce the impact of driving, but car shares, cycling, walking, and public transport provide cheaper alternatives.
  • Reduce your energy use, with changes like energy efficient lights, draught proof windows and doors, and using renewable and sustainable utility suppliers.
  • Respect, protect, and enjoy green spaces; they are carbon sinks, reduce flood risk, absorb less solar heat, and provide multiple benefits to public health and biodiversity. The stewardship of green spaces starts in the many privately owned gardens across Kirklees.
  • Cut consumption – and waste. Only buy what you need, buy things that will last, give unwanted items away, and if things can’t be re-used, recycle.
  • Talk about the changes you make, share ideas and experiences, but understand that everyone’s situation is different, and changes that might be easy for one person, may be very hard for another.

These points are taken from the Grantham Institute’s “9 things you can do about climate change”, which is available in full here, and has many links for further advice on how individuals can help tackle climate change (25).


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  2. Lee TM, Markowitz EM, Howe PD, Ko C-Y, Leiserowitz AA. Predictors of public climate change awareness and risk perception around the world. Nat Clim Chang. 2015;5(11):1014.
  3. Carbon Trust. Product Footprint Certification. 2019.
  4. Place-Based Climate Action Network. PCAN Kirklees. 2017.
  5. HM Government. UK Climate Change Risk Assessment: Government report 2012. 2012.
  6. Aecom. Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Capacity in Yorkshire and Humber. 2011.
  7. Maslen Environmental. Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Study. 2010.
  8. Julie Martin Associates and LUC. The Landscape Capacity Study for Wind Energy Developments (2014 update). 2014.
  9. Julie Martin Associates. Landscape Guidance for Wind Turbines up to 60m high in the South and West Pennines. 2013.
  10. LUC. Kirklees District Landscape Character Assessment. 2015.
  11. Planning Policy Group. Technical Paper: Renewable and Low Carbon Energy. 2016.
  12. Kirklees Council. Highway Asset Management Performance Indicators Year – 2018/2019. 2019.
  13. Kirklees Council Observatory. Method Of Travel To Work Census 2011 Quick Statistics (QS701EW). 2015.
  14. Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra). Statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England in 2017/18. London; 2018.
  15. Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. Updated energy and emissions projections 2018. 2019.
  16. Kirklees Council. Kirklees Housing Strategy 2018-2023. 2018.
  17. Climate UK. A Summary of Climate Change Risks for Yorkshire and Humber. 2012.
  18. Crichton D. Climate Change and its Effects on Small Businesses in the UK. Axa Insurance; 2006.
  19. Hall M. Flood and deprivation the latest evidence. 2019.
  20. JBA Consulting. Calder Catchment Strategic Flood Risk Assessment – Volume II (Kirklees Council). 2016.
  21. Kirklees Council. CLiK. 2016.
  22. Committee on Climate Change. UK housing: Fit for the future? 2019.
  23. Kirklees Council. Kirklees Economic Strategy 2019-2025. 2019.
  24. HM Government. Climate Change Act. 2008.
  25. Grantham Institute. 9 things you can do to about climate change. 2019.

Date this section was last reviewed

[January 2020] (RJ)