The world is facing a climate crisis, and nowhere is this more profound than in our cities. Rising temperatures and more extreme weather events are causing challenges in urban areas and this will grow in the coming decades. In response, many city authorities are declaring climate emergencies and setting targets for net zero greenhouse gas emissions. In order to meet these demanding targets, transport, which is now the largest emitting sector in the UK, will need to decarbonise. And by joining the dots between transport, energy and the built environment, we can not only reduce carbon emissions, but also promote climate resilience and create high quality, liveable cities.
Our recent report ‘Making the connections’ demonstrates this. It showcases how urban areas are joining these dots, either at the individual project or scheme level, or more strategically across a whole city. Striking examples include Transport for London using waste heat from the Tube to heat homes through a district heating network and the integration of hydropower into Rochdale Interchange to provide renewable electricity. Other case studies include Accrington Rail Station, where solar panels, rainwater harvesting and LED lighting have created an eco-station.
In Nottingham, the connections between transport, energy and the built environment are being made at the city-wide scale in order to achieve its ambitious target to be the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2028. For example, Nottingham’s trams are now powered by renewable electricity from the council-owned, not-for-profit Robin Hood Energy company (which also supplies to both homes and businesses); the council-owned Nottingham City Transport has a large fleet of electric and biogas buses; and Nottingham City Council has a 50% stake in Blueprint, a local property developer that specialises in the development of sustainable homes and workplaces. By breaking down silos, the city is delivering across policy goals like social inclusion, while decarbonising transport and the built environment.
Elsewhere, Munich is one of the front runners of European cities which have embraced an approach that sees transport, energy and property, as well as other key resources such as water and services like telecoms, better connected and therefore delivered on an increasingly low-carbon path.
In addition to either reducing emissions or improving adaptation, many of these projects deliver wider benefits including lower energy, operating and maintenance costs; job creation; improved air quality; and higher satisfaction among employees and customers of transport systems. Ultimately, they can help to create greener, healthier and more prosperous places, goals which many cities aspire to.
The process of making these connections is accelerating, with what were initially pioneering projects, fast becoming the new norm. This is essential, as the transport infrastructure we build today, will have to cope with more extreme weather that we face tomorrow.
About the Author
This post was written by Clare Linton.