Bristol leaves Green Capital legacy with pledge to become carbon-neutral city

Amidst the furore of the success achieved at the Paris summit, the European Green Capital city of Bristol has made a bold pledge to accelerate its already-ambitious climate targets and pursue complete carbon neutrality by 2050.

Bristol Mayor George Ferguson announced the commitment as a follow-up to the prominent role the city took in co-hosting the ‘Cities and Regions Pavilion’ at the COP21 talks.

“To succeed requires greater ambition, investment and dedication across all sectors,” Ferguson said. “Bristol is once again taking a lead amongst UK cities. We are saying we shall take on board what has been agreed at COP21, we shall accelerate our ambition and work with partners at home, abroad and across any and all sectors to try and achieve our goals.”

Bristol, which gives up its title as Britain’s first European Green Capital at the year-end, has already reduced energy use by 18% and carbon emissions per person by 24% since 2005.  Under its most recent climate strategy, Mayor Ferguson committed to a ratcheting of future CO2 reductions of 40% by 2020, 50% by 2025, 60% by 2035 and 80% by 2050.

Bristol united

Now, inspired by other cities in attendance at COP21 and what is now required to deliver the ambitious agreement, Ferguson seeks to ramp up the target to 100% by 2050.

“When it comes to climate change, we are a politically united city,” Ferguson added. “Also, our Green Capital Partnership includes over 850 member organisations – a key element of the city’s success as European Green Capital this year, and crucial to the success of our new carbon-zero target date of 2050.

“Working with them; with our dedicated Energy and Futures services, with our international networks and many others, I am sure we can rise to the challenge.”

Bristol City Council itself is working towards a new 50% reduction target for its own emissions by 2020, after meeting its 40% goal five years early. The Council has also made strides in its transition to renewable energy and is forecast to produce 1GW of electricity from solar panels within a few years.

As examples of Bristol’s green revolution, the city recently announced savings of £1m after installing 20,000 LED streetlamps across the city, reducing carbon emissions by 4,000 tonnes in the process. Last week, the city also announced that it could soon be home to a fleet of a 130 ‘poo-powered’ buses after a successful pilot project earlier this year.

Act de Triumph

At the Paris climate talks, Bristol offered delegates a free online toolkit called ‘The Bristol Method’, which highlights and documents what the city has learnt from its time as Europe’s Green Capital. The Bristol Method covers a range of subjects including energy, resources, transport, food and nature, highlighting how other cities can use these topics as a way to kick-start greater resource and energy efficiency.

The Paris accord signed by ministers late on Saturday evening (12 December) commits nearly 200 countries to keep global temperatures to “well below 2C” and strive for warming of 1.5C.

The agreement effectively mirrors the UK’s own 2008 Climate Change Act, setting a long-term target, with five-year review periods to green policies stay on track. The Climate Change Act commits Britain to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, from a 1990 baseline.

Luke Nicholls

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