energy for london’s library provides details of the latest reports and research relevant to helping deliver sustainable energy projects.

Under-reporting of greenhouse gas emissions in US cities

2 February 2021: Paper published in Nature Communications which reports that “Cities dominate greenhouse gas emissions. Many have generated self-reported emission inventories, but their value to emissions mitigation depends on their accuracy, which remains untested. Here, we compare self-reported inventories from 48 US cities to independent estimates from the Vulcan carbon dioxide emissions data product, which is consistent with atmospheric measurements. We found that cities under-report their own greenhouse gas emissions, on average, by 18.3% (range: −145.5% to +63.5%) – a difference which if extrapolated to all U.S. cities, exceeds California’s total emissions by 23.5%.” Access the full paper here. The research has attracted a lot of reporting – Reuters, Bloomberg, Science Daily, New York Times, and Wired.

Over the past decade, focus has (rightly) grown on cities and their contribution to national greenhouse gas emissions and – more importantly – the opportunities that cities have to reduce these emissions. Alongside this there has been increasing work undertaken on measuring urban emissions – most notably by C40 Cities. This new research is a further contribution to this subject and highlights the challenge policy makers and others have in measuring emissions at the local level in the complex environment of a city.

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Net Zero Carbon Cities

19 January 2021: A new paper published through the World Economic Forum (WEF) ‘Shaping the Energy Future‘ programme looking at ‘Net Zero Carbon Cities: An Integrated Approach‘. The paper sets out that – as cities move to increasing levels of electrification of heat and transport systems, as well as generating more power locally through decentralised energy systems, an integrated approach across these actions is needed – which needs to involve:

  1. Implementation of systemic efficiency opportunities: In the decade ahead, stakeholders cities should focus on increasing renewable energy and electrification of final energy use, while using digitalization to integrate systems – for example, by optimizing energy demand for greater flexibility, accelerating the transition to e-mobility and decarbonizing heating and cooling. They should also focus on reducing land use and transport consumption through smart growth practices aiming at creating a compact urban form.
  2. Collaboration throughout the city value chain: Public-private cooperation among various sectors – infrastructure, real estate owners and developers, mobility, equipment and technology providers, and utilities – will create a more integrated, optimized system. City- and national-level policy and financing mechanisms should support these opportunities.

Direct link to the paper here.

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Getting to Zero – regional impacts

6 January 2021: All too often the regional impacts of climate and energy policies are ignored. As we bring in further actions to decarbonise our economy it’s increasingly clear that some parts of the country will benefit or be adversely impacted than other parts – and it’s something that needs to be better understood if we are to ensure that the transition we undertake to a cleaner energy system is a fair transition, taking into account those jobs and industries that will likely need to close.

A new report by centre-right thinktank Onwards, Getting to Zero, touches upon this issue highlighting that: “if we look collectively at all the industries responsible for more than 2% of annual greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, we see that these industries are concentrated more in some parts of the UK than others. On a regional level, East Midlands, West Midlands and Yorkshire and the Humber, have the highest proportion of jobs in high emitting industries: 42%, 41% and 38% respectively. As Figure 11 shows, the industrial and manufacturing heartlands in the Midlands and North are far more likely to experience economic disruption during the net zero transition than the South East and London. This may be positive – in the form of new green jobs, or it may be negative through job losses – but the fact remains some places will be affected more than others.

The report undertakes further mapping by Parliamentary constituency and sets out that “urban areas have the lowest reliance on high emitting jobs and transport. Notable examples are Islington and Hackney, both of which are areas in the bottom ten for both high emitting employment and transport emissions. This is likely due to the high reliance on the service economy over a production economy and superior public transport links in dense urban areas like London.” This is a first in a series of papers planned by Onward – and worth a quick look at.

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Green and Healthy Streets

December 2020: London is included as a case study in this new report by C40 Cities and TUMI (Transformative Urban Mobility Initiative) ‘Green and Healthy Streets: How C40 cities are implementing zero emission areas” which sets out approaches being taken by some leading cities to implement a zero emission area (ZEA). The London case covers the operation and future plans of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) – from 25 October 2021, the existing central ULEZ will expand to create a single larger zone bounded by the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

The report sets out that achieving a Zero Emissions Area Achieving requires
a package of mobility measures delivered in a coordinated and ambitious way within a deadline of 2030. Cities are implementing policies and incentives which promote the following outcomes:

  • Significantly more trips by walking and cycling
  • Public transport priority and connectivity
  • Less vehicles overall in the area
  • Increasing the take up of zero emission vehicles and phasing out fossil fuel vehicles
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Climate-related incidents affecting eight in ten councils

11 December 2020: The Local Government Association (LGA) latest research on the effects of climate change on local authorities shows that eight in ten councils have suffered climate-related incidents in the last five years. The findings emerge from a survey (conducted to October 2020) of Directors of Environment or equivalent of all councils in England which is available here.

Nine London boroughs responded to the survey. The results are aggregated, so no specific London-results are set out. The survey had roughly a 30 per cent response rate, with a majority of councils who had declared a climate emergency responding. Key findings include:

  • Around 72 per cent of local authorities surveyed were measuring their own scope 1 and 2 emissions, and 36 per cent were measuring their own scope 3 emissions.
  • Over 80 per cent of responding councils indicated that there was an executive council member of their authority whose portfolio specifies a lead role on climate change
  • The areas of expertise and skills most frequently identified as in need of further development were green economic planning (95 per cent) and low carbon procurement and low carbon budgeting (92 per cent).
  • The most frequently identified barrier to tackling climate change was funding (96 per cent), followed by legislation or regulation (93 per cent) and lack of workforce capacity (88 per cent).

Much more detail set out the survey results.

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Rise of Renewable Energy in Cities

October 2020: Report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) highlights resource potential, targets, technology options and system-planning priorities for cities around the world. City-level targets – properly attuned to local resources and needs – are an essential component of the transition to renewables.

Helpful overview on range of energy solutions most appropriate for urban areas and highlights the increasing number of cities around the world who have set targets to increase the amount of renewable energy they are using. Chapter 4 a useful run through various modelling tools, the report stating a “comprehensive study was undertaken to evaluate these models and tools, identify prevailing gaps and challenges in the field, and propose recommendations to improve the tools/ methods and their uptake by urban energy planners.” Download the report here.

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Daring Cities

7 October 2020: “ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability (known as “ICLEI”) launches Daring Cities 2020 – the world’s first and largest global online gathering on climate change for urban leaders. Daring Cities 2020 runs from 7-28 October 2020, offering an online array of high level and visionary speaking sessions, a series of informative workshops and personal networking opportunities. The event will help to set the course to COP26 (the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference), Daring Cities 2021 and beyond.”

Full details on following press release and report. Proceedings of the events that took place under the Daring Cities programme can be accessed here.

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LGA launches report to help councils tackle climate change

21 August 2020: “The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, has worked closely with the Centre for Public Scrutiny and has published a guide to help councils play a leading role in tackling the climate crisis at a local level. The resource, which sets out 10 scrutiny questions, will help all councils and policymakers to embed the necessary environmental, social and cultural changes that communities need to see to build resilience to respond to climate challenges such as investment strategies and transport plans.

The guide can be downloaded here and is a useful read setting out comprehensive suggestions on routes to develop a robust climate emergency plan including how future scrutiny of plans can be undertaken; including the local community and how to best engage the public in the plan; planning the involvement of local businesses, partners and employers to understand the local growth context. The 10 questions framing the report are as follows:

Continue reading…
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LGA and UKSSD launch Sustainable Development Guide for councils

17 July 2020: Local Government Association (LGA) news release announcing that the LGA and UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development have today launched a guide to “help councils engage with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a time when many are starting to re-think the role of local government in leading places and empowering people.” Read the full story and access the guide here.

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Nearly half of UK’s carbon footprint down to emissions from abroad

16 April 2020: Further research around the issue of greenhouse emissions associated with goods and services we use – something the GLA has recently looked into. A WWF study report’s that nearly half of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from emissions released overseas to satisfy UK-based consumption. Carbon Footprint: Exploring the UK’s contribution to climate change, highlights the importance of addressing carbon intensive imports such as animal feed and fossil fuels, which fuel our cars and heat our homes Download there study here.

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Exploring acceptance of decentralised energy storage at household and neighbourhood scales: A UK survey

April 2020: Paper published in Energy Policy Volume 138, March 2020. Highlights of this study are that:

  • Level of awareness of community and in-home energy storage is very low.
  • Attitudes towards and acceptance of energy storage are significantly related to affect.
  • Financial cost is viewed as a major barrier to household adoption of batteries.
  • Public authorities are perceived as key trusted actors for delivering energy storage.
  • Community Energy Storage (CES) is better accepted if benefits accrue to the same community.

Open access paper available here.

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Transnational municipal networks and climate change adaptation

April 2020: Paper published in the Journal of Cleaner Production
Volume 257, 1 June 2020. “Cities have increasingly recognised the risks posed by climate change and the need to adapt. To support climate action, cities have formed cooperative networks such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Global Covenant of Mayors and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. However, a lack of scientific evidence exists when it comes to the actual impact of network participation, especially in the context of adaptation. This study is the first to test statistically the association between network membership and progress in adaptation planning in 377 cities globally. The results show that network members are more likely to have started the adaptation process than other cities, and that being a member of multiple networks is associated with higher levels of adaptation planning. Moreover, cities in wealthier countries are more likely to be more advanced in adaptation planning than others. We consider the possible explanations for these results based on the previous literature and information gathered from the networks. The main implications of our study are that network organisations should consider how to encourage the adaptation process among their members and the increased involvement of cities from lower-income countries.” Open access paper available here.

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