A Net Zero Climate Change Plan for Cities

Global warming is the single biggest threat we face as citizens, as public officials and as businesses – beyond even Covid-19. Indeed, Coronavirus is a symptom of climate change. So, if we want to tackle the real problem, our phased lockdown exit plans will need to include plans to tackle climate change.

At DSP we thought it would be timely to publish our net zero climate change framework for towns and cities. It is designed to be high level – a simple ten step plan and a list of methods and initiatives you might want to take into consideration as you develop a region-specific approach. It is intended to inform local leaders and their citizens while stimulating debate. It has been forged from the work we have done with municipal leaders, business managers and environmental experts in developing more holistic approaches to greener, healthier, environmentally sound cities and towns.

City leaders will need to set a clear net zero target and time frame up front. Most will be focused on achieving net zero emissions by a certain date before 2050. You will need to outline your definition of emissions so as, for example, to include or not, all greenhouse gasses including Methane, Halogens and Nitrous oxide at a minimum and not just Carbon dioxide. Further, over time, you will most likely want to stretch the target as ultimately you should be aiming for a fuller drawdown of greenhouse gases so as to get ourselves back to pre-industrial levels of warming and greenhouse gases and not a less ambitious net zeroing of 1 degree or 1.5 degrees warming above pre-industrial levels.

Cities should structure their net zero climate change plans into a distinct category of projects and actions. Larger cities may want to appoint a leader for each category and separate project teams to address each. Category leaders should report to whoever is leading the project overall in the city organisation and ideally the city leader. Measurement is vital so be clear about how you will measure the likely business case/impact for each category and initiative and set six monthly rolling targets for each prior to adoption.

10 Point Net Zero Climate Change Framework for Cities (with project categories):

1. An action plan for the people. The only way a city will be able to pull off aggressive targets such as net zero emissions by 2030 will be to get as many of their citizens as possible to change their behaviors. DSP has developed a universal 10 point climate change action plan for individuals and households which is comprehensive and practical.

2. An action plan for businesses. Alongside an action plan for your citizens you should also adopt and market an action plan for businesses. Getting businesses, small medium and large, to buy into a straight forward, universal net zero climate change plan for their business could make a big difference.

3. Energy: strategies should include approaches and targets for wind turbines, microgrids, geothermal, solar farms, rooftop solar, wave and tidal, biomass, micro wind, in-stream hydro, waste to energy and energy storage.

4. Food: to include a plant-rich diet, reduced food waste, green/clean cooking stoves and cookware, nutrient management, composting, conservation agriculture and irrigation.

5. Women and girls: women have a key role to play in the environmental movement as more often than not they influence household decisions, purchases and practices. They are generally more responsible for gardens and small holdings and they spend considerable time educating children and informing their values. They are also ultimately responsible for family planning. Educating women and girls in net zero strategies and environmental approaches should prove highly worthwhile.

6. Buildings and infrastructure: the following components are essential to your plans – net zero buildings, walkable cities, bike infrastructure, green roofs, LED lighting, heat pumps, smart glass, smart thermostats, district heating, landfill methane, insulation, retrofitting, water distribution and building automation.

7. Land use: make sure to include forest protection, new forests and tree planting, coastal wetlands, bamboo, peatlands, perennial biomass, local community land management, rewilding and afforestation. Develop community learning initiatives e.g. wildlife gardening techniques and centres of excellence like a rewilding town centre park.

8. Transport: transport is a key opportunity for any climate conscious city plan. Take a look at mass transit, high-speed rail, shipping and boats, electric vehicles, ridesharing, electric bikes, cars, aeroplanes, trucks, remote working and learning and trains. Think through natural capital approaches that could, for instance, combine incentives for good practices as well as taxes or charges for the most polluting behaviours. Education and supportive, positive economic policies are the key.

9. Materials: this is an area often overlooked but, done right, can make a significant difference to effective net zero strategies. For proven eco materials strategies look carefully at household recycling, industrial recycling, alternative eco-friendly cement, refrigeration, recycled paper, bioplastic and water saving in homes.

10. New eco innovations: there are a number of new innovations and trends that, as they mature, could make a significant difference to achieving and enhancing climate friendly action plans in the medium term. We believe the following deserve your attention: artificial foods, the ‘artificial leaf’ project, autonomous vehicles, living buildings, direct air capture, smart highways and roads, hyperloop, smart grids and building with wood.

At DSP we help organisations and individuals to become more climate friendly and adopt healthier living approaches. We offer a cost effective online app, DSP Online, to help you better understand how to become environmentally conscious with simple actionable techniques gleaned from the day to day approaches and learnings at DSP’s center of excellence in the UK southwest. Sign up to DSP Online today – CLICK HERE.

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