Nottingham Set to Become the UK’s First Carbon-Neutral City by 2028

As international concerns mount over the environmental issues facing the world today, Nottinghamshire have taken steps to ensure that everything is being done to tackle climate change. The environment is more and more at the forefront of people’s minds as climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion take to the streets to protest that nowhere near enough is being done. Demonstrations have taken place in Nottingham and climate activists have continued to urge authorities to declare a ‘climate emergency’.

In recent years Nottingham city has experienced poor air quality which has led to the authorities taking action and introducing several schemes to reduce the environmental impact of city life.

Businesses, councils and public bodies are looking at what they can do to improve the environment for the people around them.

Nottingham City Council’s announcement in January this year that it intended to become the UK’s first carbon-neutral city by 2028, was the latest step in years of ambitious, innovative and forward-thinking environmental policymaking that has already yielded amazing results.

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Nottingham met its 2020 target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% four years early; more than 40% of all journeys in Nottingham are made on public transport and solar panels have been installed on more than 4,000 council houses.

Council buildings have cut their energy consumption by 39% and it is on target to generate 20% of it’s energy from low-carbon sources by next year.

Last year it was decided that a Clean Air Zone was not needed after the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs concluded that the city’s air pollution had fallen.

The council was recognised for its vision and persistence when it was named the overall winner in the Guardian’s Public Service Awards.

The Guardian’s public services editor, David Brindle said:

“This has been the year when argument over the climate crisis finally ended and the imperative for radical action became widely understood. Many public services are still barely off the starting blocks in the race to tackle the emergency, but Nottingham has shown what can be done through inspired leadership and gritty determination. In scrutinising every aspect of its own practice and taking bold steps to shape behaviour in the wider community, the city council has truly set the bar for excellence in how public agencies must respond to the threat to the planet.”

Every year, 180,000 tonnes of Nottingham’s household waste is burned at the Eastcroft incinerator, on London Road. This then heats water, which is pumped around 5,000 homes, and 100 business premises for heating and hot water.

Thermal-imaging drones are used to check the network, alerting engineers as to where the problems might be and saving significant amounts of time and money.

New, fully electric taxis are being gradually rolled out. By December this year, the aim is to have 132 electric taxis, saving around £234,000 a year in fuel costs, and reducing their carbon dioxide output by 154 tonnes.

By the end of the year Nottingham City Transport will have 120 biogas buses on the road, helping to emit 7.5m kg less of CO2 per year, and 59,000kg less of NOX per year. 

Greater Nottingham also has one of the largest electric bus fleets in Europe, with nearly 60 electric buses.

The Nottingham Declaration on Climate Change was created in Nottingham almost 20 years ago and was signed by more than 300 councils up and down the country.

This declaration was commended by Friends of the Earth and constituted a political commitment to tackling climate change long before it has the attention it does now.

At the time this was a breakthrough in political support by councils and means that Nottingham has been synonymous with tackling climate change for almost two decades.

Sally Longford, the Labour council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for energy and environment said that Making the carbon neutral commitment was only possible because of the work that had gone before especially the efforts of her predecessor in the environment role, councillor Alan Clark, who died in 2017.

She said:

“He was determined to make progress and drove forward quite a lot of the early development. We got a lot of stick over the years. People thought we were anti-car, because we introduced various schemes to try and reduce car usage and congestion. But it has paid off. When I was talking to the officers about how far we could push this they were confident we could go further than other councils because of all the work we’d already done.”

Nottingham City Council spent £25m on its own gas and electricity company, Robin Hood Energy. It is the UK’s first publicly owned not-for-profit energy company and as of July last year, all its energy comes from renewable sources. Originally funded by the city council it is now paying back loans it received, as well as turning a small profit, which it has re-invested into schemes designed to help customers lower their energy usage.

With around 115,000 customers, it supplies clean energy to thousands of homes and business, both inside Nottingham and elsewhere in the country. 

It also has ‘white label’ affiliations – essentially partnerships with other local authorities which mean its energy can be bought by people living across the country from companies like ‘RAM Energy’ in Derby, ‘Leccy’ in Liverpool, and Angelic Energy in Islington.

The city council has also installed tens of thousands of solar panels across the county including on 4,000 council houses.

Together, they’ve created 10 million Kw/h – that’s enough to power a single TV for the next 11,415 years until the year 13,434 AD.

Nottingham City Homes has also carried out 40,000 energy efficiency measures, including 14,221 more efficient boilers, 4,140 loft installations and 12,588 cavity wall measures as well as installing the solar panels on council houses.

They also have a huge solar farm in Gedling complete with 6 beehives which creates enough energy for 1,000 homes a year.

Further to all this the largest community battery in Europe is being installed in Nottingham. This giant battery built by Tesla powers homes in the Trent Basin development, which is part of the 250-acre Waterside Regeneration area next to the Trent. It’s connected to the grid as well as storing energy from solar panels. When electricity is cheap overnight, the battery can store it to be used at peak times. These homes also have ground-source heat pumps and heat stores, making them among the most eco-friendly in the country.

It is clear from looking at all the measures being taken to tackle climate change in Nottingham that the Council are making a concerted effort to reach their goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral city by 2028.

Councillor Sally Longford, said:

“We’re really proud of the work we’re already doing to try to improve the local environment and do our bit to tackle climate change. We’re constantly looking into new ways of adding to the wide range of projects and services already implemented or underway which play their part in reducing our carbon footprint as a council and a city and improving the air quality for everyone. We have one of the best networks of sustainable transport in the country and have been turning our waste into energy for years rather than sending it to landfill. We are adding to these great assets by pioneering many new approaches to deal with the climate emergency, such as piloting virtually zero carbon homes, developing community batteries linked to solar power and making it increasingly viable to consider electric vehicles with the UK’s first Eco Expressway and a network of public charging points. All of this means we are taking a lead on climate change and are committed to becoming the first carbon neutral city by 2028.”

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