UK cities need greater control to deliver net zero, says ITC

New ITC report claims UK cities need greater control to deliver their net zero carbon plans.

A new settlement between the UK government and the nation’s cities is needed to meet the challenge of climate change and deliver a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, according to a new report by researchers at Nottingham Business School for the Independent Transport Commission (ITC). 

Many UK cities have already embraced the 2050 challenge by developing roadmaps for becoming zero carbon locations, many with a target date ahead of that laid out in the national legislation.  

However, the report looks at cities of different size with varying powers and concludes that small and medium-sized cities need greater direct control over their priorities in order to deliver zero carbon locations.

Importantly, by analysing the effectiveness of different city models, the ITC concludes that additional powers are required to better align development frameworks with transport and decarbonisation strategies, thereby helping cities secure the most effective roadmaps to low carbon urban transport for their locality.

The ITC concludes that an Avoid-Shift-Improve decision making hierarchy should be adopted by city authorities seeking to re-shape communities to promote shorter trips by making more amenities available locally and nudging local people towards active mobility (like cycling or walking). An assessment framework is provided to help cities monitor their progress.

Given the UK’s highly urbanised economy, the report claims that delivering wholesale change to how people live and travel will require new innovative funding streams and fresh private sector partnerships to deliver significant, long-term investment in public transport systems and, in particular, in a comprehensive electric vehicle charging infrastructure to achieve zero carbon transport targets.

Andy Street, mayor for the West Midlands, said: “UK cities may vary in size and geography but the challenge of delivering low carbon communities applies equally across the board. The ITC report gives us all food for thought as the new government takes part in COP27. 

“Given that transport accounts for a third of our region’s emissions, delivering a cleaner and more convenient local transport system is a vital task. It’s a task that further and faster devolution of powers and funding would make easier and that’s why I would encourage the government to back us to make change here on the ground.”

Dr Matthew Niblett, director of the ITC, said: “Great Britain faces no bigger challenge than tackling climate change and reaching its net zero targets. How UK cities tackle this in a highly effective and inclusive way for all income levels is critical.  

“At a basic level, cities need to generate strategies that implement new technologies equitably. To do this, social value criteria should be applied to policies and pilot studies to test emerging technologies should be encouraged.  

“Crucially, all local authorities will be more successful if they have improved fundraising mechanisms to allow widespread capital investment. Place-based solutions, which require a focus on local travel based on 15-minute neighbourhoods, will be essential to achieving a low carbon future.”

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