Meet the Sustainability Leader: Carbon Reduction – Norwich City Council

With entries now open for edie's Sustainability Leaders Awards 2020, this new feature series showcases the achievements of the 2019 winners and reveals their secrets to success. Up next: The winner of our Carbon Reduction award, Norwich City Council.

Meet the Sustainability Leader: Carbon Reduction – Norwich City Council

(L-R) Presenter Vincent de Rul

Norwich City Council’s all-encompassing approach to reducing its own carbon emissions and those accounted for by its residents combines science with innovation, setting an example for other local authorities and helping to drive equally ambitious action from businesses and homeowners within the area.

By developing and implementing a structured carbon management plan, Norwich City Council has made several impressive strides towards decarbonising its own operations, purchasing 100% renewable power for internal use, switching its petrol and diesel ground fleet for electric vehicles (EVs) and retrofitting buildings across its estate to boost energy efficiency.

Funded by Government agency SALIX, the plan has seen the local authority ensure that all energy supplied to its 15,000 social homes is renewable and that these buildings are no longer wasting precious resources such as water, electricity and heat.

It has additionally led to a string of innovative retrofitting projects at some of the Council’s most hard-to-abate buildings, including the construction of a “floating” solar array at its Art Deco-era City Hall and the installation of modern insulation at its medieval friary complex.

Looking to the future, Norwich City Council is now planning to build Europe’s largest Passivhaus-certified housing development. The 112 homes within the development, which will be based at Rayne Park in Three Score, Bowthorpe, will be fitted with passive heating and cooling technologies, solar panels and state-of-the-art glazing and insulation. The move comes shortly after the Council completed work on its first 12 Passivhaus-certified properties, which were completed in 2016 and are located in Carrowbreck Meadow.

As for transport, Norwich City Council has invested in the UK’s first carbon-negative car park, which sequesters 59 tonnes of CO2e annually and is fitted with modern EV charging infrastructure, thus encouraging residents to change their behaviour and travel more sustainably within the city. Further progress in this field has been driven by a £14.1m investment in seven local cycling routes, which has led to a significant increase in the number of local journeys being made by pushbikes and e-bikes, and the introduction of new “rapid” bus routes.

Decarbonising energy, both within and outside of its own operations, has been a further key focus area for Norwich City Council in recent years. By switching to 100% renewable power, which it largely sources via Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), the local authority has seen its annual energy bill decrease from £2.4m in 2008 to £1.7m in 2018, freeing up funding to spur the uptake of clean power by businesses and residents.

The organisation notably became the first UK council to run a reverse public solar auction in 2015, with businesses competing to buy clean power generated by rooftop solar arrays on residential and commercial properties. To date, it has installed more than 3,400kW of solar capacity across the area, enabling homeowners and businesspeople to benefit from low group purchase prices.

In leading by example in its approach to decarbonising the built environment, transport and energy, Norwich City Council spurred a 55% reduction in the amount of carbon emitted by each resident between 2008 and 2018, with emissions figures falling from 6.9 to 3.8 tonnes of CO2e per capita over this ten-year period.

This reduction has led the local authority to begin exploring the feasibility of setting an approved science-based target in line with either of the trajectories outlined in the Paris Agreement – a move it claims would require the achievement of complete carbon-neutrality by 2050.In light of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report on global warming, which lays out the benefits of achieving a net-zero planet by mid-century, the beginning of this consultation could not have come at a more timely moment.

Norwich City Council stated in its application for this award that its ambition in these areas has been driven by an overarching purpose of protecting the local area and its residents and visitors from the adverse effects of climate change and global warming, with this “people first” purpose sitting at the heart of its operations and decision-making process.

In other words, while decarbonisation has cut Norwich City Council’s energy bills and boosted air quality within the area, the organisation maintains that it is simply doing the right thing by taking on a leadership role. This moral and ethical positioning in the face of a string of funding cuts for local authorities received much praise from the judging panel.

“Winning the carbon reduction award was a wonderful experience,” Norwich City Council’s environmental strategy manager Richard Wilson said.

“This was partly due to being surrounded by so many sustainability professionals who are at the forefront of the industry, but it was also an honour to be recognised by the judges for being a leader in carbon reduction. Their praise will help further motivate us to progress towards our low carbon sustainability goals, and the networking we did will help us to try new projects or work with new like-minded partners”.  

What the judges said: “Norwich City Council has demonstrated genuine leadership, setting an example for what can be achieved through its own efforts and using its influence to help transform the local area. The judges were delighted to see a local authority continuing to be this proactive in what can sometimes be very challenging circumstances.”

edie’s 2020 Sustainability Leaders Awards

Now entering their 13th year for 2020, the RSA-accredited Sustainability Leaders Awards are sure to be one of the biggest nights of the year in the sustainability and energy space, with some exciting new categories added to recognise excellence across the spectrum of sustainable business.   

The 2020 Sustainability Leaders are now OPEN for entries. The entry deadline is Friday 27 September 2019. The Awards will then take place on the night of 5 February 2020 at the Park Plaza London, Westminster. 


edie Staff

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