UK cities to become climate 'hubs' under new £3.5m scheme
The UK Government has launched a new £3.5m initiative aimed at connecting the nation's largest cities in a collective effort to tackle climate challenges.
Under the project, which was unveiled on Thursday (31 January) by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), a string of ‘city climate commissions’ will be created in some of the UK’s largest cities, beginning with Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast.
The cities will serve as research hubs for low-carbon technologies and climate mitigation and adaptation measures, sharing best practice with each other and creating local-level solutions that can be scaled up or replicated. Emphasis will be placed on innovative energy technologies which could help decarbonise heat and transport.
Overall, the scheme, called the Place-based Climate Action Network (P-CAN), is aimed at helping cities play their part in the UK meeting the aims of the Paris Agreement. It has been founded in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) landmark report, which laid bare the dramatic differences between the Agreement’s two trajectories – 1.5C and 2C.
Launching the P-CAN scheme at a green finance conference in Leeds this week, Energy Minister Claire Perry said: “This new £3.5m research network that has been set up to enable cities and towns to build much needed local action on climate change, by building their capacities for action, developing investable projects and accessing finance.
“The network will include researchers from universities across the UK and will explore innovative approaches to sustainable finance, renewable energy and low-carbon projects, while also highlighting the business opportunities and social and economic benefits of local energy projects to communities.”
The scheme will run for a five-year period, during which the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will invest £3.5m in research initiatives and collaborative schemes across London, Edinburgh, Leeds and Belfast.
A fair transition
In order to receive a portion of the funding, research teams will have to prove their work would ensure that the energy transition is “just”, meaning that all regions, economic groups and social demographics can benefit from the shift.
The announcement of this requirement comes shortly after Perry publicly argued that policymakers would only follow advice for reaching a ‘net-zero’ Britain if it did not exclude entire regions or social classes from the transition to carbon neutrality.
Her sentiments, which she expressed during an Aldersgate Group event in London last month, were echoed by M&S’s director of sustainable business Mike Barry, Vattenfall’s UK manager Danielle Lane and the IPCC’s senior scientist for mitigation Joana Portugal Pereira.
The event was held in the wake of new research on the so-called “just transition” by Imperial College London, which found that the UK’s current green policy frameworks could create a “two-tier” economy. The study, commissioned by Drax Group, concluded the regions such as the North of England and East Midlands are not receiving the financial and social benefits of the low-carbon transition in the way that London and the South East are.
Similar research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found that energy businesses in the North of England will need to retrain up to 28,000 oil, gas and coal workers if the UK is to meet the aims of the Fifth Carbon Budget.