Cities have the power to change the world.
Global centres of commerce, culture and innovation, they are also by FAR the biggest contributors to climate change.
Despite taking up just two per cent of the world’s ice-free land surface, they create around 75 per cent of its total greenhouse gases. Cities are vital to our transition to a sustainable economy, and it’s clear they need to take fast and drastic action to cut their massive contribution to climate change.
In a bid to inspire and reward action, the global cities leading the way on tackling climate change have been revealed in a new ‘Cities A List’ report.
The good news is that cities are taking the climate crisis more seriously than ever before. Of the 856 cities ranked on their environmental impact by non-profit charity CDP, 105 (12 per cent) received an ‘A’ rating – up from just 43 in 2018.
These range from popular destinations like Sydney in Australia, Cape Town in South Africa and Paris in France, to smaller and less populated regions like Lakewood in Colorado, Lahti in Finland and Flagstaff in Arizona.
In the UK, five cities made the top grade. From electric taxis and eco-schools to net zero targets and clean energy rules, we round up their green credentials:
In 2018, Manchester committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2038 – far more ambitious than the UK’s overall 2050 deadline.
The local authority last year made it compulsory for all new buildings across the city to have net-zero emissions by 2028. This was complemented by a fracking ban ahead of the UK Government’s national phase-out. At least 60,000 existing homes a year up to 2038 will also be retrofitted with energy-saving devices.
The city’s overall carbon footprint fell by 39 per cent between 1990 and 2015, and multi-million-pound investments have since been made in its tram, electricity, walking and cycling infrastructure.
Electricity North West is helping to bring 45MW of extra renewable generation capacity to the local grid over the next four years. Soon, schemes to support businesses and homeowners considering onsite generation will be launched. Around 20 government-funded fully electric buses will be added to the city-region’s fleet over the coming months.
Home to the London Electric Vehicle Company (LEVC) – the UK’s only manufacturer of fully electric taxis – Coventry is recognised worldwide as a hub for low-carbon transport. The city will soon boast a new clean transport lab, enabling it to spearhead research into electric vehicles, biomethane and hydrogen for transport. This is thanks to a £30 million joint investment from German engineering giant FEV and Coventry University.
Coventry is due to release a new climate change strategy, which will contain long and short-term targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory. It is expected to set a pre-2050 net-zero target, a zero-carbon homes standard and announce the creation of a national park.
Coventry has made major investments into low-carbon heat networks, energy-efficient street lighting, electric buses and very light rail.
Leicester aims to halve emissions by 2025, from its 1990 level. The city has invested heavily in electrifying vehicles, improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions from heating council homes.
More than 150 Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been given decarbonisation advice, £150,000 has been invested in LED street lighting and a new car share scheme called ‘Choose How You Move’ aims to help reduce transport emissions. It has also expanded the ‘eco-schools’ programme, which helps schools to be sustainable in everything they do from energy, waste and water to litter, biodiversity and transport.
London aims to increase its solar energy capacity 20 times by 2050, reduce CO2 emissions by 40 per cent by the end of this year (from 1990 levels), and introduce zero-emission zones in some town centres.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s low-carbon actions have included:
- A Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) with vehicle scrappage schemes.
- The ‘Zero-Carbon Home’ standard, requiring all new-build homes to reach net-zero emissions by 2025.
- Launching London Power, which aims to make low-carbon energy accessible and affordable for London residents.
Khan has vowed to funnel £50m into a ‘Green New Deal’, which would see funding put into decarbonising areas such as retrofitting existing buildings, reducing air pollution and decreasing transport emissions increased.
In 2015, Bournemouth set an ambition of reducing area-wide emissions by 30 per cent by 2020. The town exceeded this aim in 2017, prompting it to set a new 2020 target of a 42 per cent reduction. This updated aim is due to be exceeded by the end of the year.
The council has notably signed the Paris Pledge for Action – a commitment which binds it to aligning with the decarbonisation aims agreed in the Paris Accords and supporting local businesses to set and meet their own Paris-aligned targets. Its updated emissions targets, due to be published later this year, will likely see the local authority move from 2C alignment to 1.5C
Bournemouth’s transport strategy includes measures to electrify buses, and incentivise cycling and electric car journeys.