Bristol City Council – controlled by Labour – was the first council in the country to declare a climate emergency in November 2018. That motion was unanimously passed and now acts as the foundations for the City’s transformative commitment to become carbon-neutral by 2030.
In 2015, Bristol became the UK’s first European Green Capital. And, having already recorded a 71% reduction in carbon emissions from its direct activities against a 2005 baseline – surpassing a target to reduce emissions by 65% by 2020 – it now has the lowest carbon footprint of any UK city.
The City’s Energy, Transport and Green New Deal Lead Kye Dudd stresses the importance of the unitary authority continuing to lead the climate movement in a way that he hopes will create something of a domino effect of climate action among businesses, citizens and policymakers alike. “We need to extend our influence into the business sphere and to bring other people with us.”
The Council recently partnered with Manchester-based blockchain technology company EnergiMine to reward council employees who partake in sustainable actions by using the EnergiToken (ETK) platform. ETK uses blockchain to incentivise actions that promote energy reduction, clean transport use and social cause initiatives. Employees can now earn tokens to spend on rewards – or donate the equivalent value to a registered charity – by acting in an environmentally sustainable way.
Great progress has also been made outside of the Council’s own operations – particularly in the area of renewable energy. More than £50m has been invested in low-carbon and renewable energy projects in the region since 2012, and to great effect: Bristol sourced 21GWh of energy generation from solar, wind and biomass in 2018 – enough to power 24,000 homes for a month.
Through the Council’s City Leap Strategy it hopes to attract a further £1bn of global investment in the city. Local partners already supporting the project include the University of Bristol, University of the West of England, Western Power Distribution, Bristol is Open, Invest Bristol and Bath, Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Bristol Energy. The signs are already looking positive: since its launch last year, the City Leap initiative has already garnered interested from almost 200 local organisations, international firms, investors and energy and infrastructure businesses.
Dudd notes that district heat networks and community renewable energy projects are two areas where smaller local businesses can get involved. A 5MW community-owned solar project, has installed roof-mounted solar panels on public buildings. And a new network of underground pipes that will deliver affordable, low-carbon heat and energy across the city – is already benefitting more than 1,000 social housing properties and is continuing to expand.
The Council voted in October to make Bristol the first UK city to ban public use of diesel cars from its streets to combat air pollution. While still requiring government approval, that scheme is set to start from 2021. Bristol’s Eastville Park is the first of four planned charging hub for the region, each hosting four to eight rapid-charge connections that can charge an EV up to 80% from 30 minutes’ charging. In total, four local authorities will install 120 new or replacement charge point connections across over the next year. The majority of the charge points will be supplied with 100% renewable energy provided by Bristol Energy.