Climate drive takes hold in UK cities

Tackling climate change has risen rapidly to the top of agendas in urban centres and city regions over the last year, signalling that the ‘Greta effect’ is taking hold at a local political level, according to a new study.

Half of city council leaders and directly elected mayors contributing to the ‘Urban Voices’ survey cited the climate emergency among their top priorities, rising dramatically from just 5% last year.

This has affected their transport priorities, the study complied by think tank Centre for Cities and consultant Arup revealed. But more funding and support from national Government is needed to help councils go further, they overwhelmingly agreed.

“If cities are going to lead the way on important issues such as climate change then the next Government should give them the power and resources that they need,” said Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter.

Three quarters of urban political leaders said they are currently encouraging the public to ditch cars in favour of cycling and walking, and over half are transitioning to more environmentally friendly council owned vehicles. Encouraging bus use is also high on their agenda.

Eight in 10 said they would be willing to spend significant extra capital on combating the climate emergency, if it was provided by Government, while 94% said they would allocate the extra money to public transport investment.

Arup’s integrated city planning director Joanna Rowelle said: “It is encouraging to see the climate emergency ranked among the most important issues for British cities – but we also see significant barriers to action. These need to be urgently addressed.”

More broadly, the study also found that 62% of urban council leaders and directly elected mayors rate the support that Government gives to tackling city specific issues as ‘unsatisfactory’.

Meanwhile, a new report from the Wales based Centre for Alternative Technology claims that the transition to zero carbon can be achieved without relying on the promises of future technology.

This, it says, would require a reduction in energy demand for transport of 78%, through cutting overall travel and changing to more sustainable modes, alongside changes to buildings, land use and behaviour, and investment in renewable energy.