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East Midlands Chamber News

Meet the man leading Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028 - the UK's most ambitious sustainability city vision

Last year, Nottingham City Council set out the boldest vision related to sustainability of any local authority in the UK with its plan to reach net zero emissions for its operations by 2028. Dan Robinson finds out more from Wayne Bexton, the council’s head of energy services, project leader for Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028 and chairman of the D2N2 Energy Strategy Board.

 

How did Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028 come about?

The key thing to note is our elected members have been very supportive of our environmental and green credentials for a long time, and in the past five years we’ve really accelerated our carbon reduction programme across the city – cutting emissions by 41% compared to a 2005 baseline.

We were the leading core city in relation to this and when the international and national push to reach net zero came in, we started to establish a roadmap to achieve our carbon-neutral goal, which gave us 2028 as the target.

A lot of other cities have made similar pledges but most are around 2030, so we will be the first carbon-neutral city in the UK if we hit our goals.

 

How realistic is this target?

The easiest part is making the commitment – the difficult bit is putting that into action. A lot of that 41% reduction work means the low-hanging fruit has been taken, so we’ve put together a carbon-neutral action plan that sets out the areas of focus for us to get to 2028.

We accept it’s an ambitious target but we hope that as we go on that year by year journey, we’ll be in a strong position to lobby Government for the funding we need, plus work with the private sector to generate further investment.


Sustainable East Midlands is a new campaign by the Chamber: Find out more here


We have a city-wide green partnership in which other stakeholders, such as the universities and businesses, are making similar commitments so it’s had a galvanising effect.

I’m confident we can do it and we’ll be helped by things outside our control, whether it’s legislative changes or technological advancements.

 

What changes need to be made to reach carbon neutrality?

There’s three key areas – domestic, commercial and transport. All new homes in the city are built fit for the future but there’s a big challenge around retrofitting existing properties. We’ve secured some significant grants to deliver a model for 300 tester homes in Nottingham City Homes’ stock.

There’s about 10 archetypes of homes across our stock, ranging from the worst condition to only requiring a little intervention to reach net zero.

To treat these more difficult homes, we’re taking some learnings from the Energiesprong network in the Netherlands known as “Stroomversnelling”, which brings together various organisations involved in building homes to create a net zero standard and reduce the renovation costs by working collectively.

More than 4,000 homes are already fitted with solar panels and 5,000 homes around St Ann’s are connected to our district heating network.

Nottingham City Council has followed the Energiesprong approach when retrofitting homes in Sneinton

From a commercial perspective, we’re working with businesses by offering grant schemes for them to undertake a survey, and we’ll subsidise work they need to carry out to become more energy-efficient.

In transport, we have the lowest car ownership per head of any city outside London, and a well-integrated public transport network alongside cycle provision and walking routes. We’ve also secured funding from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to roll out electric vehicle charging points, with a pilot already underway for electric taxi charging bays.

It drills down into other areas too – everything from waste to consumption – and we also have a pledge to be a plastic-free council by 2023.

 

What does Nottingham’s energy consumption look like?

About 25% of Nottingham’s energy demand already comes from renewable generation within the city boundary and I can only see that increasing as coal is phased out by 2025. We’re working closely with Western Power Distribution to upgrade the network so renewables can be pushed out more, and installing some large battery storage facilities.

 

What impact has Covid-19 had on the Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028 target?

The immediate impact has been that across the council’s own buildings, we’ve seen a energy demand reduce by a third, and there’s been some positive trends in transport, but we’re calculating increased energy consumption from people’s homes.

But longer term, it’s made us think about how the city can operate in a different way in the future, whether it’s sharing workspaces rather than standard offices or upgrade our homes for post-Covid working while also tackling fuel poverty.

 

Why should local businesses engage with the sustainability agenda?

From an economic regeneration angle, the low-carbon economy is the fastest-growing sector, and we hope Nottingham businesses will benefit from the city being at the forefront of that.

They can be part of the supply chain or may benefit from being located in a city with good sustainability credentials as they can use the Carbon Neutral Nottingham brand.

Ultimately, it puts Nottingham on the map as a trailblazer in this area and will bring opportunities.

 

To find out more about Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028, visit www.nottinghamcity.gov.uk/cn2028 or follow @CN2028 on Twitter.

 

This article appears in the February 2021 issue of the Chamber's Business Network magazine. To read the online edition, click here.

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