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Birmingham seeks to close green agenda ‘credibility gap’

Birmingham seeks to close green agenda ‘credibility gap’

🕔11.Mar 2013

smokeBirmingham Council’s Labour-led administration is set to toughen a carbon reduction programme, despite figures showing that the city is struggling to deliver its existing green agenda.

The cabinet will approve recommendations from a Green Commission to change the way that emissions are measured while redoubling efforts to meet an ambitious programme to cut C02 by 60 per cent by 2026 against a 1990 baseline.

Crucially, Birmingham is to switch from monitoring C02 on a per capita basis to calculating total city-wide emissions.

Per capita monitoring is thought to be flawed because it would not take into account the rapid growth in Birmingham households expected between now and 2026.

Population growth, predicted at an additional 150,000 people by 2031, would mean that Birmingham could achieve its 60 per cent per capita reduction target although total emissions would fall by less than 60 per cent, according to the commission.

Cllr James McKay, cabinet member for a green city, who chaired the commission, admitted that the 60 per cent reduction figure was “very challenging” and that monitoring by total emissions would set a more stringent target.

C02 emissions fell in Birmingham by about 646,000 tonnes between 2005 and 2010, but still stand at 5.7 million tonnes compared to 6.8 million tonnes in 1990. Emissions have been rising slightly since the end of 2008, a trend blamed on higher levels of heating in homes and industry during colder than average winters.

The aim is to reduce total emissions to 2.75 million tonnes by 2026 – effectively halving carbon output in 13 years.

The council will be betting on the chances that Government energy reforms will play a major role in enabling Birmingham to reach the 60 per cent reduction target. The National Carbon Plan published in 2011 sets out a range of strategies at a UK level for decarbonisation of the national grid.

Cllr McKay is also hoping that Birmingham Energy Savers, started by the council’s former Tory-Lib Dem administration, will play a significant part in cutting emissions. The scheme aims to retrofit thousands of domestic dwellings, providing greener energy sources and significantly cutting fuel bills.

He paid tribute to “some brilliant things” that came forward from the previous administration’s green agenda, but added that poor monitoring of C02 emissions caused a “credibility gap”. The decision to base a 60 per cent reduction on 1990 emissions levels was flawed because there was no reliable date for C02 stretching back that far, Cllr McKay said.

In 2009 Birmingham emitted roughly one per cent of all UK emissions – the highest in the country. This was principally the result of gas and electricity use in domestic and commercial buildings, as well as emissions from transport and industry.

The council will publish a Birmingham Carbon Plan in October setting out four priority areas:

  • How Birmingham should in future be heated and powered, expanding new district energy networks in major regeneration and development areas.
  • A mobility action plan to promote greener and sustainable methods of transport.
  • Improving the energy efficiency of buildings through the Birmingham Energy Savers programme.
  • Creating decarbonised local energy generation capacity by building on the success of existing solar installations.

Cllr McKay said his aim was to turn Birmingham into one of the greenest cities in Europe. Some progress had been made in the past, but there was a need to “accelerate our plans” and measure Birmingham against the likes of Stockholm and Copenhagen.

He forecast significant economic and social gains: “Jobs are already being created locally in green industries but we need to ensure Birmingham is at the cutting edge so it becomes a place that businesses want to invest in.

“And if we can develop low carbon vehicles, energy efficient homes and new ways of generating energy, citizens will save money and enjoy a better quality of life.”

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