COP 17 and a low carbon future for cities


Investing 2% of a modern city's GDP in low carbon and energy efficient opportunities for ten years would reduce that city's carbon emission levels by 40% at no net cost.

That is according to research commissioned by the Centre for Low Carbon Futures (CLCF) and presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban today.

The study, conducted by Professor Andy Gouldson at the University of Leeds, focuses on the importance of decarbonising cities as part of a strategy to tackle global climate change. Over an 18 month period, Gouldson and his research team from the University of Leeds and University of York have created a 'city-scale mini Stern review' to evaluate the cost and carbon effectiveness of a wide range of low carbon options that could be applied to households, industry, commerce and transport at the city scale.

The top line results from the research released at Durban today state that investments of 2% of city scale GDP each year for ten years would generate direct annual savings of 2.2% of GDP a year. Furthermore, every £1bn of investment in low carbon options would generate £220m of energy cost savings each year, in the form of reduced energy bills for households, firms and the public sector, and hence would be repaid in just over four years.

Investment on this scale would result in numerous benefits for cities including: meeting carbon reduction targets; stimulating economic growth; reducing exposure to energy costs; and creating jobs.

Commenting on the research, Jon Price, Director, Centre for Low Carbon Futures, says: 'Finding financially viable solutions to decarbonise our cities should be central to our global climate change strategy. After all, more than half of economic output is generated in cities and more than half of all people live in cities - leading to between 40% and 70% of all anthropogenic greenhouse (GHG) emissions being produced in cities. This research demonstrates that investing in low carbon solutions now, is not only financially possible but also makes absolute economic sense.'

Professor Andy Gouldson, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds says: 'This research demonstrates that investing in low carbon measures is not only cost effective but also can result in a commercially attractive return on investment. More importantly, it can deliver numerous benefits for the huge number of people around the world who live in cities. It won't be possible with financial capital alone; we need political and social buy-in to make it happen.'

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The 2008 Research Assessment Exercise showed the University of Leeds to be the UK's eighth biggest research powerhouse. The University is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015.

The Centre for Low Carbon Futures is a collaborative membership organisation that focuses on sustainability for competitive advantage. Founded by the Universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York, the Centre brings together multidisciplinary and evidence-based research to both inform policymaking and to demonstrate low carbon innovations. Our activities are focused on Energy Systems, Smart Infrastructure and the Circular Economy.