Cities sign low carb deal

Six months from now, three of England’s biggest cities, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester, will have to come up with city-wide carbonreducing schemes. The three cities are sharing a £250,000 grant from central government to develop schemes that will help cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

The low carbon cities programme, announced last month, has been set up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs (Defra). The cities will work with both the Carbon Trust, the private company set up by government to help organisations cut their carbon emissions, and with the Energy Savings Trust, which is funded by government and the private sector. According to the Carbon Trust, cities are responsible for 80% of global emissions of greenhouse gases and consume 75% of global energy. The three cities are part of the core cities group, which also includes Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, and the Defra funding will help these cities, by producing audits of current emissions and identifying ways to cut them and save costs.

“Cities contribute to the causes of climate change, which in turn is already having major
social and economic impacts on our major cities,” says Richard Rugg, head of public sector
at the Carbon Trust. “The core cities are located in areas that are adjacent to major rivers,
flood plains or the sea and these populations are especially vulnerable to climate change

But Rugg says cities can provide answers as well as questions. “Cities have a huge impact on emissions, because of the numbers of people who live and work in them – the core cities regions are home to 16m people – and because of the example they can set.” The density of their populations and the variety of organisations in cities provides opportunities for co-operation between groups such as local government, the NHS, education, and business.

Track record

Manchester, Leeds and Bristol were chosen to lead the project because of their track record in addressing climate change over the last decade, their ability to devote staff to the programme, support from each council’s leaders and previous success in working with other organisations. Each of the three cities will develop their own plans, taking into account local factors and have six months to come up with carbon reducing schemes. “The three cities are all very different and there is no one outcome we are looking towards,” says Rugg. “They all have different schemes under way and we need to build on what they have already achieved.”

Leeds, for instance, has trialled a process called tri-generation, where a single source of
energy is used to create power, heat and cooling, while Bristol has done a great deal of work
on waste and transport issues.

There is enormous potential for savings, according to Rugg, who believes city-wide reductions of 20% are realistic. Such significant cuts are possible because of the economies of scale that can be unleashed if different organisations within a city co-operate, he says.

Measures such as combined heat and power (CHP) plants that are not cost effective for a local authority alone become much more attractive if you can also involve the city’s hospitals, the university and social housing schemes.

Joint projects

Alex Minshull, environmental quality and sustainable city team manager at Bristol city council, says the city is looking at the possibility of joint projects. “From my office window, I can see a university campus and a conference centre owned by the council and the whole area is surrounded by a timber-producing estate, so it is likely there will be potential for installing biomass boilers there, while in the city centre there are university buildings and hospital premises in close proximity, so we may be able to do something with CHP,” he says.

Other possibilities include using publiclyowned land to develop community-scale wind power (see page 3) but the Carbon Trust emphasises that this scheme is not all “hardcore” technical development. There will also be a range of more prosaic measures, including opportunities to improve insulation and campaigns to encourage cycling and use of public transport. There are also likely to be opportunities to combine waste disposal and energy production. The cost of many of these plans can be cut if different groups join forces on procurement, producing economies of scale.

On lighting, for example, Minshull in Bristol says if the council were to join forces with the
university and the local NHS, it would be able to go to a lighting company with an order for
2m units. “That gives us the purchasing power to make savings that are not available to the individual organisations,” he comments.

On the basis that you can only manage what you can measure, the city-wide ‘state of play’
audits that will be carried out in all the core cities will establish a city-wide carbon dioxide
baseline, showing emission totals and providing a detailed breakdown of where emissions
come from.

“We hope we will develop three beacons of good practice with highly replicable projects
that other areas can build up and run with,” says Rugg.

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