With increasing public attention on climate change, CDP looks at what innovative climate action looks like in local authorities. To date, over 200 UK local authorities have announced climate emergencies, making measurement and transparency more important than ever. As we approach 2020, the year in which global emissions should peak in order to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement 1, we look at the actions in the UK that can achieve this tipping point.
Tackling emissions with new transport solutions
Transport is the biggest source of air pollution and GHG emissions in the UK, which in turn impacts health and disproportionately affects vulnerable populations. 2 Leadership on sustainable transport can minimize this risk while maximising a variety of environmental, social and financial opportunities.
Electric vehicles are key to the UK government’s “Road to Zero ” strategy and this is reflected by the actions of local authorities. For example, Cambridge City Council’s Air Quality Action Plan shows how a district council can act on air quality and transport. In collaboration with the Greater Cambridge Partnership, they’re accelerating the transition of the city’s taxi fleet to zero emission capable vehicles by installing more than 20 new rapid chargers by 2020. Each charger can provide 80% charge to a taxi in 30 minutes. The council is also placing public charging points in car parks around the city while encouraging their installation in new developments where there is parking provision. Their target for a 30% electric or petrol hybrid fleet in Cambridge by 2023 should reduce taxi emissions by 20-30%, in turn reducing city-wide NOx emissions by 1.5-4.5%. To achieve the aim of all licensed vehicles being zero-emission or low-emission capable by 2028, they’re incentivising license fees (100% discount for zero-emission, 50% for low-emission vehicles) and extending age limits (15 years and 12 years respectively). 3 Cambridge’s plan shows that even smaller councils can roll out EV policies, which can make a real difference to citywide emissions.
City centre low emission zones have the potential to reduce transport emissions while promoting more sustainable transport choices. Glasgow City Council launched Scotland’s first low emission zone (LEZ) on December 31, 2018. Currently in phase one, it will be fully implemented by 2022, when all vehicles entering the zone will have to meet specified exhaust emission standards. The Scottish Government has pledged to introduce LEZs into Scotland’s four biggest cities; Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee between 2018 and 2020. 4
The phased approach to low emission zones is a popular and effective mode of implementation, also used by Greater London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The ULEZ will aim to reduce nitrogen oxides (NOx) which accounts for half of the emissions from road transport across London. As a direct result, more than 100,000 residents will no longer live in areas exceeding legal air quality limits by 2021. 5 Introduced in April 2019, the regulation will be further strengthened in October 2020 for the heavy vehicle Euro VI standard to apply across the whole of Greater London, and again in 2021 to expand the ULEZ for light vehicles across inner London.
Innovation on transport is not limited to low emission vehicles. Greater Manchester’s “ Bee Network” is a proposal for the UK’s largest cycling and walking network, covering 1,800 miles. The plan aims to make cycling and walking easier and more attractive, giving people an option to get around without a car. It further suggests that some other problems felt across the city region, as well as the UK at large, such as health, air quality and congestion can all be addressed by increasing uptake of these choices; a point backed up by a recent report by C40 6. Congestion alone costs Greater Manchester £1.3 billion annually and 30% of car journeys are less than 1km. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham aims to make “better places to live and work by giving people a real choice about how they travel. In doing so, we’ll make the city region healthier and more prosperous”. 7
Municipal energy companies to increase the power of renewables
The UK’s emissions have reduced 43% below 1990 levels in 2017, as a result of successful efforts to decarbonize the grid. Municipally owned energy companies have the potential to accelerate the transition to a sustainable economy in the UK while reducing fuel poverty. The municipally owned energy companies aim to make a difference to both the supply and demand of energy. This is achieved through offering green tariffs of 100% renewable energy, as well as initiatives such as providing customers smart meters to give them more control over their energy consumption.
Early movers such as Bristol Energy and East Midlandsbased Robin Hood Energy have already had market impact and seen results. Average tariffs are now £87 cheaper in the East Midlands and Bristol Energy claims it can save customers an average of £250 8 a year , while reinvesting profits in the local area.
Norwich City Council have pursued an innovative model in their partnership with Engie to co-create Roar Power. Similar to others in the space, Roar’s aim is to reduce fuel poverty and carbon emissions reduction. Partnering with Engie, an established provider who received a CDP ‘A’ score on climate change in 2018, means that they can provide a reliable low-cost service to achieve their aims. Norwich City Council estimate the project should save 2.3-3tns of carbon per person in the city, while saving consumers money, reducing fuel poverty in the city and working to improve the energy efficiency of housing stock.
CitizEn Energy, a not-for-profit energy company founded by Southampton City Council provides 100% green energy. They source energy from solar and wind farms across the UK, provided by Robin Hood Energy. Up to thirteen other local councils will also use CitizEn Energy to provide gas and electricity to their residents, offering a competitively priced, local alternative to the ’big six’ energy companies. By offering competitive tariffs, CitizEn also aim to address fuel poverty. Crucially, as a not-forprofit, any surplus will be reinvested into local energy efficiency initiatives, contributing further financial and carbon savings.
Creating opportunity from the ‘grand challenge’ of housing emissions
The UK government aims to build 300,000 new homes a year (1 million new homes by 2020 and another half a million by 2022). The UK Government has also identified halving the use of energy in new buildings by 2023 as one of its “Grand Challenges”. 9Taken together these policies make buildings a crucial sector for the coming years.
BCP Council (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole) have added their first Passivhaus standard properties to their residential stock, funded by the council. This internationally recognised building standard can reduce energy bills by 90%. 10 Recently, Norwich City Council won the prestigious Stirling Prize for Architecture for their own Passivhaus council estate development - Goldsmith Street - with almost 100 ultra-low energy homes. 11 Whether social or private housing, both Bournemouth and Norwich show that UK local authorities can be ambitious on developing low carbon residential buildings.
Greater Manchester’s 5-year environment plan, identified three key priority areas to reduce energy demand in buildings: existing homes, commercial buildings and new buildings. They have set an ambition for “all new buildings to be net zero carbon by 2028” and “initiating a fundamental shift” in whole-house retrofit by 2024. The scale of the challenge is to retrofit 61,000 homes per year between now and 2040. It is recognized in the plan that “retrofit of existing residential properties is the most significant issue in achieving our aims for carbon neutrality” 12 due to the up-front costs and potential disruption associated with the measures required. While there are challenges in achieving these aims, cities are starting to take action where they can.
To conclude, the actions being taken by local authorities across transport, energy and buildings illustrate how local authorities are stepping up to the challenge to help a low-carbon world.
- environmental-protection.org.uk/policy-areas/air-quality/ air-pollution-and-transport