The roll-call of local authorities which have passed motions declaring a climate emergency grows day by day. What started in Bristol in November last year has been spreading like a benign virus through council chambers across the land and encouraging councillors of all parties to commit to taking urgent action to cut carbon emissions rapidly to virtually zero. So what needs to be done locally to turn this fresh political commitment into meaningful programmes of action and participation which genuinely accelerate local progress in cutting emissions? A typical response would be for a council to commission a swathe of analytical work detailing how the new emissions target embedded in the motion (typically carbon neutral by 2030) might be achieved locally – if at all. The analysts and consultants are called in and everyone waits to find out what the plan is. This is not a useless exercise; it will tend to produce a list of technological choices (from building retrofit to EV take-up) which details the quantities in which they have to be adopted from now until 2030 to meet the target. But such an exercise misses the point. The problem is not that we are unfamiliar with the actions which need to be taken to cut emissions such that we must have them spelled out to us (though perhaps some do still want this). The problem is that the individuals, communities, businesses and organisations that together make up a local area are not yet doing these actions in sufficient quantities to cut emissions fast enough. There are reasons why this is currently the case and it is those ‘reasons’ which must be tackled to accelerate progress. So another approach is required if these motions are to generate the meaningful and above all effective programmes of local action which they seek. Achieving carbon neutrality needs people and organisations to make huge changes in their own practices and choices and in how they seek to influence others. By doing so they can set new norms of behaviour, drive new initiatives, and secure wider participation. And they help to create the conditions in which others will find it easier to take action themselves and join in – including national politicians and regulators who design market rules and set funding priorities. That’s why at a recent Bristol Green Capital Partnership event on ‘accelerating progress towards a carbon neutral Bristol’, one of the asks of the 180 attendees from across the city was to make and share their own commitments to ‘next step’ actions ‘at home’, ‘at work’ and ‘in our communities’.
Centre for Sustainable Energy 22nd March 2019 read more »
An extraordinarily wide-ranging five-year environment plan allowing Manchester to start to squeeze carbon out of the economy by 2038 and move towards sustainability has been launched by the mayor. Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has launched an ambitious five-year plan as the first step in reaching the city’s flagship 2038 overarching goal of sustainability and climate neutrality twelve years ahead of the government. Much of the heavy-lifting for this long-term goal is contained within the proposed 5-year environment plan, unveiled at the city’s second Green Summit on 25 March at Salford Quays. This is a springboard aiming to put Manchester on-track towards a “clean, carbon neutral, climate-resilient city region with a thriving natural environment and circular, zero-waste economy”. The plan focuses on five core challenges facing Manchester: mitigating climate change, air quality, production and consumption of resources, natural environment, resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts. Broader aims include the need to create vibrant and sustainable places in the city region, to increase economic productivity, and to improve health and quality of life of its residents. On homes, workplaces and public buildings, the priority is to cut carbon emissions and energy use, improve affordability, comfort and cut fuel poverty through deeper insulation of building fabric that “goes well beyond the basic measures” such as loft insulation. This will focus firstly on cutting heat demand through a shift to whole house retrofit by 2024 at the rate of 61,000 homes a year, followed by heat and cooling demand reduction of 22% by 2025 in public and commercial buildings, and finally increased efficiency of new buildings. Greater Manchester also undertakes to standardise energy efficiency rating of its buildings, including through Display Energy Certificates, and to raise average DEC rating to at least D by 2024, and C or better by 2030 where viable. It also commits to planning permission only for net zero carbon homes by 2028, in social housing and in business, action driving up standards in the private rented sector and optimising the Energy Company Obligation for Manchester.
Environment Analyst 5th April 2019 read more »