With over 50% of the world’s population living in cities, one of the main environmental challenges that needs to be addressed is reducing pollution and carbon emissions from the built environment. New research by Oxford Brooks University found that the UK’s 20 biggest cities by population are responsible for more than 20% of national carbon emissions and more than 20% of energy consumption.
(Interactive graph by The Guardian - Red line indicates Carbon Emissions target for 2050)
The report looked at the carbon reduction plans put in place across 60 UK cities and assessed how successfully each area had reduced its greenhouse gas emissions. Coventry, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent are the leading cities in the UK to reduce their overall greenhouse gas emissions but long term the report discovered that only seven UK cities; Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield, York, Plymouth, London and Coventry, have 2050 targets in place.
Professor Tim Dixon, director of the Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development said: “The extent to which cities are reducing emissions seems to be good news – although it may be partly affected by the economic situation – but that’s only part of the story. The thing I found most surprising was how many cities don’t have carbon reduction targets in place for 2050.”
With economic growth, a rise in green jobs and a need to reduce energy costs, cities have started to take the initiative but more is still needed to be done to create a sustainable, low carbon economy by 2050.
Tim Dixon concludes that “UK cities and government still need to do much more to work together in developing and transitioning to a low carbon future by 2050 and we can certainly also learn from best practice in cities such as Vancouver, Copenhagen and Stockholm.”
Scientists propose that the UK needs to create a reduction of at least 34% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and at least 80% by 2050. If the UK is to meet the carbon emission targets the government will need to start incorporating the role of cities and local governments into the climate change act and low carbon agendas.
A carbon calculator developed by the Guardian allows you to see whether you could successful reduce carbon emissions and how your climate and energy policies stack up. If you were in charge of energy and climate policy, how would you reduce the UK’s carbon footprint?