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UK100 Clean Air Commitment

Local Elections 2018:  UK100 Clean Air Commitment

The UK100 Clean Air Commitment is designed to give all local election candidates, but especially group leaders, the chance to show they are taking seriously the issue of air pollution in their community. It consists of four pledges, at least three of these need to be taken on by parties locally for it to be officially accepted as a commitment.

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What is Clean Energy?

UK100 encourages local leaders to adopt policies that will make a zero carbon economy a reality in their communities. Clean energy, generating power and heat from renewable sources, and developing technologies that reduce the carbon emissions of energy intensive industries, are key to a successful transition away from dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

The way we get there will change as the costs of technologies fall and the solutions we develop to manage demand and get smarter with our energy use increase.

That’s why our funders commissioned IPPR to develop a plan for the whole of London to paint a picture of what is possible by one city and one leader to make the shift.

Of course the levers that leaders have vary according to the powers they have. And ensuring this works for local residents, encouraging new industries and jobs, designing warmer, healthier homes is essential.

There are also global scenarios for the development of clean energy, which are regularly updated. In 2015, the energy [r]evolution estimated that:

“By 2050, 92% of the electricity produced worldwide will come from renewable energy sources in the basic Energy [R]evolution scenario. ‘New’ renewables – mainly wind, Pv, CSP and geothermal energy – will contribute 68% to the total electricity generation.”

You can read more of the report here (the key bit is on p86)

Is it just about renewable electricity?

No. We have so much more to do than just clean up our power supply. Heat is still mostly dependent on gas in the UK (and if you live off the gas grid you may be dependant on oil or coal), and some of our most important heavy industry (steel, chemicals and cement) may still depend on carbon-based sources of energy.

UK100 promotes the adoption of clean energy by local leaders.  While much of that will be across their own authority functions and activities (housing, transport, waste management) there is also an important role for their leadership in their wider community and local economy, for example in securing EV charging points, driving energy efficiency or innovative experiments such as Leeds’ H21 project piloting hydrogen in the gas grid.


We also encourage leaders in industrial regions, such as the Tees Valley, to show leadership in the adoption of low carbon and clean energy solutions, such as the deployment of CCS technology and CCS-ready energy generation. 

UK100 is pleased to support such ambitions, to enable our most energy intensive industries to be part of the transformation of our economy to zero carbon by 2050.

Carbon Capture and Storage has a prominent role to play in that transition. Closing down our industrial base is not an option in the pursuit of our international climate commitments.  By delivering new technologies, we can continue to grow our economy, while also contributing to radical reductions in carbon emissions. 

Southampton will be powered by clean energy by 2040, can other cities match us?

Like many cities across the UK and the world, Southampton celebrated Earth Hour on Saturday. We switched off the lighting of our biggest landmarks to remind ourselves of the Earth’s precious resources and that how we use them makes a difference to whether we tackle climate change or not.

But the battle against climate change isn’t about living in the dark: the shift to clean energy and away from fossil fuels is a hard-headed economic decision as well as an environmentally responsible one.

Southampton is now joining the club of nearly 70 British towns and cities that are committed to shift to 100 per cent clean energy by 2050. Indeed Southampton is going even further – committing to reach that goal by 2040.

When we make the commitment in our city, we do it not just for the planet but because it is good for the people we serve. It will enable us to create jobs and growth in a way that is less dependent on fossil fuels, making our communities both healthier and wealthier

Southampton has been getting on with cleaning up energy supply for years – so is well placed to achieve this. We have harnessed our own local clean energy sources, to create the UK’s first geothermal power scheme. It started initially to supply only the Southampton Civic Centre, but now its users include TV studios, a hospital, a university, a shopping centre, residential buildings and a hotel – as well as public and private-sector residential developments. The district energy network has also been designed to integrate additional low or zero-carbon technologies as they evolve. We are ahead of our target to cut CO2 emissions from our own estate  – and have done so every year but one since 2010. Long-term thinking and determination underpin our success.

But there is lots more to do: from shifting transport to cleaner vehicles, making it easier to walk, cycle and use the bus to get around town to work and to play, saving us all money by making our homes and workplaces more energy efficient, and using cleaner forms of energy for heating our homes and workplaces are all important. The city council is in discussions with the university about the feasibility of tidal lagoons providing a source of energy on the River Itchen, possibly in conjunction with a new Light Rail line linking us to Portsmouth. Research suggests we could generate 25 per cent of our energy needs from this source alone

The most immediate impact of dirty energy is on our air: Southampton is a port and freight lorries as well as big ships contribute to the problem. It affects the oldest, the youngest and the poorest, but everyone else can’t escape. By working together with other cities we can come up with solutions that work for the locality but can also be applied elsewhere.

Clean Air Zones are a start, but supporting cleaner vehicles, through procuring them for the council fleet, putting in charging points for electric cars, and finding new ways to move freight about that means fewer big dirty trucks on our roads are all possible with political will and technological savvy.

We see cleaning up our air as part of our shift to an economy without fossil fuels that poison people as well as the planet. Like with dirty air, the poorest and ordinary working people will feel the impacts of climate change first and hardest. It will be them who can’t get insurance for their business, or find their homes flooded out as extreme weather becomes more common.

And though it sounds difficult, the costs of not acting are much greater than of shifting now to cleaner energy. Solar power on buildings (ask any big property owner what are they doing with their roof?), storing electricity to use when you need, using heat from industry to warm our homes, and keeping our energy bills down with smart technology are all possible in a way that five years ago they were not.

Businesses are already doing this. RE100 is a campaign of big businesses, from Jaguar Land Rover to Marks and Spencer, all committed to 100% renewable electricity. They need cities to work with them to make this a reality, and cities need business to adopt the clean energy agenda too: we can work together on this.

Around the time of the Paris climate negotiations in 2015 there was a global movement for local leaders to make the commitment where nation states are often failing. The science of climate change needs political will and practical delivery, which is why UK cities’ and towns’ commitment is so important. But the shift is happening because it makes business and economic sense as well as environmental sense.

The leadership of cities like Southampton makes a difference: encouraging new businesses to come up with new products and processes will create jobs and ensure the city is ahead of the game in the new industrial revolution.

Having a network of UK cities working together also actually creates a bit of healthy competition: why would we leave it to China, if we can do it here, now?

Simon Letts – Leader of Southampton city council.

What is Clean Energy?

Street lights are changing. Thanks to the latest LED technology, they’re becoming cleaner, cheaper and more reliable. The councils installing them are saving money and reducing their carbon footprint. But how many councils are being left in the dark over the benefits of LEDs?

10:10 Climate Action recently worked with the energy expert Chris Goodall to look into the details of switching. Our findings estimate that if all the UK’s councils switched to LEDs they’d save over £200 million per year combined – enough to provide an extra 12 million hours of social care support for older and disabled people in their own homes. The more efficient lighting would also prevent 600,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year – that’s the equivalent of taking 400,000 new cars off the road.

There are a number of financing options available to councils to fund a switch to LED street lights, including the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), the Salix Energy Efficiency Loans Scheme (SEELS), the Green Investment Group and commercial lenders.

Liverpool city council converted 21,000 old sodium street lamps to modern LEDs. It has invested £11m from their capital budget since 2014, but is already saving £1.5m every year in maintenance and energy bills.

Conventional lights have to be replaced after four to six years, but LEDs can last for over 20 years. This cuts waste and also saves on maintenance. Councils with LEDs have already seen energy savings of up to 50-70%. This can rise as high as 80% when combined with smart sensors and controlled from a Central Management System. This is only possible because LEDs (unlike old bulbs) can be brought back to full brightness instantly – so they can be dimmed or turned off when not needed.

One of the councils investing in a CMS is Southend on Sea. They switched all of the town’s 14,500 street lights to modern LEDs. The £13.5 million cost was funded through the Green Investment Bank and a grant from the Department for Transport. The CMS, which allows the Council to brighten and dim individual lights, not only maximises the energy savings, but also helps to meet the needs of their residents.

Leicester City Council have converted over 32,500 street lights, saving £1m a year in electricity costs, and the equivalent of 5,350 tonnes of CO2. Leicester Assistant City Mayor for energy and sustainability, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “It’s a very worthwhile scheme bringing environmental benefits, lower running and repair costs and freeing up money as a result to use elsewhere.”

A note of caution: LED streetlights with too a high proportion of blue light have sometimes proven controversial. Cardiff City Council have modelled best practice here, earning recognition from the International Dark Skies Association for their use of ‘warm white’ <3000 Kelvin LED lanterns, which reduce sky glow and help to tackle light pollution.

Whilst the benefits of LEDs have been known for a while, some councils have been slow to switch. By 2014, only 10% of councils had switched to LED streetlights, with the most recent estimate suggesting this has only increased to 20%.

That’s why 10:10 Climate Action have launched the Lighten Up campaign, asking councils to make the most of the benefits of LEDs and take a pledge to switch their street lights within five years.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Executive Member for Environment & Transport, who signed the 10:10 pledge on behalf of Islington Council, said, “By investing to save, Islington Council will have more resources available to protect frontline services, and will reduce the impact our borough has on the environment. That’s why we are proud to be delivering this project and proud to be signing up to 10:10’s ‘Lighten Up’ campaign.”

Both councils at the beginning of their switch to LED and those who are already upgrading are welcome to sign the pledge to showcase their work, and encourage others to act. For more info, please contact Neil Jones, projects manager at 10:10 Climate Action,

Neil Jones – Project Manager at 10:10