Blog : Clean Air Act

Local leadership: exploring decisions on hydrogen, by Hywel Lloyd

Local leadership: exploring decisions on hydrogen, by Hywel Lloyd

Hydrogen is the fuel of the future.  Like all futures it hasn’t quite arrived; yet it’s clearly an opportunity. 

A number of countries across the globe have set out, or are setting out plans and strategies to invest in Hydrogen for their economic recovery, for example Germany and Japan.  In the UK while the Energy White Paper and associated strategy for low carbon heat have yet to emerge, a variety of agencies and organisations are energy planning, looking to plot a positive energy future for their places, and communities.

As part of the work of UK100 we have a presence in some of the processes of the regulator Ofgem, and are working at representing UK100’s collective interest with organisations such as National Grid, for example in their Hydrogen Gas Market Plan (GMaP) program of work.

Given many localities are looking to understand their hydrogen options, here’s our latest take on the wider sense of what’s the future for hydrogen – and what that might mean for a local leader.

The first thing to say is that hydrogen is not a silver bullet, yet it’s certainly one of the things that will insure we can fuel our future energy needs.  The advantages of hydrogen include its multiple uses, for domestic and industry heat, powering vehicles, electricity production and long term energy storage. 

While it will be easier to maximise those benefits if we can reduce our demand through greater productivity and efficiency in our use of energy, we set energy efficiency to one side for now as it is in the domain of hydrogen supply where it gets more interesting for places and communities.

Many can see a potential opportunity in hydrogen, which could even give a first mover advantage to a community or location, helping secure some of the early economic benefits of the hydrogen economy.

So a first reference point would be to appreciate the basic technologies for the two main methods of production:

  • Reformation (SMR), a chemical process that uses a natural gas and steam reaction to create ‘blue’ hydrogen and other by-products.  Importantly one of those by-products is carbon dioxide so this approach really does need something like carbon capture and storage to make it an opportunity in the future, most likely to work where there is a ready opportunity for carbon capture

So that would suggest near the gas fields of the North Sea or other locations where there are geological stores for carbon dioxide, such as salt caverns.  This geographical constraint could affect as much as half the country.

  • Alternatively we have the process of electrolysis.  Electricity breaks down water to produce hydrogen and oxygen (so no GHG emissions), electrolysers effectively just need water and electricity.  With 100% renewable electricity, that would produce renewable, or ‘green’ hydrogen.

Some see ‘green’ hydrogen as the nirvana of the future of heat. We should note the caveats that hydrogen doesn’t have as much calorific value as the natural gas currently used for cooking and heating, and some of the engineering in those devices would need to be changed. Domestic appliances can take up to 20% hydrogen fuel blend, so anything above that would need them to be replaced with appliances ready for hydrogen.

Clearly electrolysis has far fewer constraints on deployment compared to SMR, so the question there then becomes much more about the value of the hydrogen, or the availability of renewable electricity.

The balance of costs of these two elements of the process are a key question on where best to put your electrolysis, which in turn suggest a key criteria will be what do you need the hydrogen for?  

And it is probably true to say it is easier and cheaper to transport renewable electricity than it is to transport hydrogen.  Clearly hydrogen can be a part of the gas mix for the heating of homes and cooking by way of the gas grid; it can equally be used to support transport and power hydrogen fuel cells which some propose as a good solution for HGVs.  This could be site specific or via the gas grid; thirdly you could use it to create electricity (which might sound odd because we may have used electricity to create it yet we can taking surplus renewables at one point, storing their energy value in hydrogen and then releasing it as electricity when there is a greater demand for electricity).

So, where does that leave a local leader?

For some you will already have made or been engaged in a hydrogen opportunity, particularly where your place has the geology to support a SMR/ CCUS type approach, and ideally with central government support given the capital costs and innovative nature of some elements of the approach.

For most of the rest of us the question is more nuanced – do we lead, what’s our opportunity, or should we let the energy system do its thing and concentrate on a different opportunity?

For electrolysis hydrogen, potential options include connection to renewable generation to ‘use-up’ surplus electricity, for example adjacent to a wind farm, or connected to solar on a capped land-fill site; that hydrogen could then be fuel for a bin or bus fleet, it could be injected to the local gas grid; it could be stored for later use when ‘additional’ electricity is needed.  Other examples include using hydrogen fuel cells in buildings to reduce emissions (in place of a boiler) or as part of a local micro energy network at an end of the pipe location.  Other opportunities are being created daily.

As with many ‘new’ opportunities for a local authority it is key that the political and senior leadership is clear about the purpose behind the opportunity.  Clarity of purpose helps everyone involved make better decisions, knowing what is, and equally what is not, important.  For hydrogen that purpose could be climate led, helping reduce emissions and improving air quality; it could be about local jobs and businesses, helping manage local energy prices, costs of transition or create new businesses; equally it could be part of an approach to bring new revenues directly to the authority.

While any one of these is fine, the political purpose is different; and the necessary deployment of political capital will also differ.  Without political capital hydrogen isn’t really a priority, because budgets, staffing, resourcing and other decisions (e.g. planning) won’t all be deployed to help secure pro-hydrogen outcomes – and those tools along with local goodwill, business engagement and the like are all going to be required at this early stage of hydrogen deployment, because hydrogen is not yet the lowest cost energy option.   

In perhaps 10 years time much of the landscape will be different, hydrogen will be in some people’s gas supply; tens if not hundreds of hydrogen refuelling stations will be scattered across the country; surplus renewable electricity will be making hydrogen in a variety of locations.  If hydrogen isn’t a priority for you and your area it will arrive eventually.  


We will be working with a range of stakeholders to progressively flush out opportunities by location so do drop us a line if you are interested in hydrogen for your place. 


Hywel Lloyd, UK100 Board Member,

Local Government: a breath of fresh air for public health and wealth, by Geraint Davies MP

Local Government: a breath of fresh air for public health and wealth, by Geraint Davies MP

Coronavirus has made people stop and think about public health like they have never done before, which has galvanised the campaign for Clean Air.

People have enjoyed cleaner air during lockdown. They have recognised the flourishing of nature, appreciated the reduced noise pollution and they have, in part, enjoyed the flexibility that remote working has brought to their lives.

These things should be safe-guarded and encouraged in a new normal and local authorities, with the right support, can use this time to deliver these changes as part of a localised response to coronavirus.

Evidence from universities around the world link air pollution with increased infection and deaths, which means it affects prevalence and should therefore be read alongside R value for avoiding a second peak.

A report published by a cross-party group of MPs that I chair, sets out a series of cross-department and multi-governmental proposals, supported by 90 parliamentarians, to keep air pollution low.

The proposals, based on evidence from scientists, businesses and local authorities include the continuation of home working, the phasing out of wood and coal burning in homes, a scrappage scheme for dirty vehicles, and changes to the Environment Bill which include Air Pollution targets and incorporates indoor air quality so harmful domestic chemicals are banned and planning regulation improved.

Most significantly for local authorities it calls for the roll-out of clean air zones, increased cycle lanes and more frequent public transport services – which will of course need the right central government support.

Having been the Leader of Croydon I oversaw the introduction of the UK’s busiest tram system – a public-private £200m 26km electrified orbital link between Wimbledon, Croydon and Beckenham. I believe similar schemes should be supported across the UK.

Greener planning and building regulations can bring in-built power generation, insulation and ventilation, less need to travel and more public transport with local government procurement boosting demand for electric vehicles on an upgraded charging grid.

These changes will revolutionise public spaces and give a much-needed boost to local economies by increasing footfall.

Further, it will encourage the UK to develop a greener and cleaner infrastructure, which can create jobs and establish a new industry and expertise that can boost our exports.

Polls shows that public support for cleaner air is at an all-time high and people are prepared and willing to change their lifestyles to achieve it. Some businesses, too, have been early to adopt flexible working and encourage public transport usage ahead of the coronavirus hitting, and many more have been forced to follow.

Likewise, local authorities have been proactive responding to air quality and have an opportunity to be more ambitious than ever before, if given the correct support.

Through a local approach people will be empowered to make the changes that will allow them to lead healthier lifestyles, during the next year or so where the threat of Coronavirus lingers and beyond.

Now, the government must embrace the opportunities of the next few months to ensure a green recovery that build Britain back cleaner and greener than ever before.

As ever, local approaches will be different and should be flexible– but they must be unified in their desire to improve air quality, and with-it public health.


Geraint Davies, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution


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Launching UK100’s Countryside Climate Network

Climate change affects everyone, everywhere, and rural towns and villages can be more vulnerable to its impacts, such as extreme weather. UK100 has always been an inclusive organisation, but it is no secret that most of our 96 members have represented metropolitan places. This edition of our newsletter is focused on the launch of our Countryside Climate Network, spotlighting the role that more rural councils play in creating climate solutions. With the launch of the Countryside Climate Network we are making an activel decision to ensure that the rural voices are part of discussion about climate action.

Countryside councils are well placed to tackle climate change and meet the needs and ambitions of their communities for economic recovery and better health and wellbeing. They have to innovate, since many climate solutions have so far been designed for more urban settings, and they are elected, giving them democratic legitimacy to deliver lasting change. The network is here to enable our members to share their experiences of what works and to provide a platform from which they can highlight their successes, as well as the challenges they face.

This isn’t about a competition between rural areas and urban areas. The whole country needs to move swiftly towards a net zero future and so all our members, rural and urban, will want to collaborate and support each other in meeting that national priority.

I am delighted that we have 21 founding members of the Countryside Climate Network, brought together under the leadership of Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council. I am incredibly grateful to him for the energy he has injected into this new network. Fifteen of the members are entirely new to UK100, which brings our total membership well over 100, a long-standing goal of mine. Given the horrendous impact of Covid-19 and the amount of focus councils have rightly devoted to it, the fact that we have achieved this milestone in the middle of a global pandemic highlights how seriously climate change is being taken by councils across the whole country.

There is a myth that the countryside is somehow peripheral to the economy and to climate change, but that is not the case. Devastating floods and droughts cause acute hardship for rural communities and threaten our food supply chain. Per capita carbon emissions are actually higher in rural areas compared to urban areas because of inefficient insulation and high-carbon fuel sources in the housing stock, a lack of options for lower carbon travel and land-use emissions. But the countryside is also home to a huge amount of innovation.

With COP26 being postponed to November next year, the network has time to build its profile and impact. But that doesn’t mean our members aren’t taking action right now. In this newsletter you will read about some wonderful examples of climate action in rural areas. In Swaffham Prior in Cambridgeshire, the whole village is undergoing a transition from oil-fired heating to ground-source heat pumps. Just outside Canterbury, planning permission has been granted for a green hydrogen plant, powered by offshore wind, the hydrogen will be used to power the next generation bus fleet. In Cornwall, every council decision is considered in relation to its impact on climate change as well as other so called ‘planetary boundaries’.
I hope you enjoy learning about these examples. If you want to find out more about the Countryside Climate Network, please visit our website or get in touch with David, our Countryside Climate Network Coordinator You can see more information about the launch on our Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cornwall’s ambition – carbon neutral by 2030, by Cllr. Edwina Hannaford

Cornwall Council was privileged to become the one hundredth signatory of UK100 and a founder member of the Countryside Climate Network and see our membership, alongside other like-minded local authorities, as an opportunity to celebrate our climate action ambitions.

As the Cabinet Member for Climate Change I am honoured with leading our ambitious programme for Cornwall to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Building on the momentum of our nationally renowned Green Cornwall programme and our 2017 Energy Future Vision we have already embraced many of the principles that UK100 embody. We became one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency on 22 January 2019, calling for the development of an action plan that would set out the steps required for Cornwall to strive to become carbon neutral by 2030.

In developing our response to climate change, we undertook a greenhouse gas inventory that highlighted Cornwall’s key emitting sectors and engaged with key stakeholders including over 3,000 residents, schools, town and parish councils. Alongside the inventory we commissioned the University of Exeter to carry out 2030 and 2050 scenario modelling which identified solutions to high emitting sectors and the potential timescales for reaching carbon neutrality; this evidence- based approach set the focus and framework for our subsequent action plan development.

On 24 July 2019 the Council’s Cabinet unanimously agreed the emerging Climate Change Action Plan; this plan set out a regional leadership approach across multiple systems that is redefining our role as we realign significant resources and focus onto the battle against climate change. We supported the resourcing of a core Carbon Neutral Cornwall Team and priority projects including the Forest for Cornwall, a Whole House Retrofit Pilot and the development of a Climate Change Developing Planning Document (DPD). We supported these key projects by committing £16 million capital funding to enable the delivery of phase one of our action plan. Our action plan has been praised by Greenpeace which has led to approaches from a series of local authorities from across the UK asking for support in developing their own responses.

Whilst the adoption of the Carbon Neutral Action Plan and priority actions was unanimous, we have acknowledged the need to consider social justice, and ensure that no Cornish residents are worse off when we are developing our response to the climate emergency. As a key part of our approach to accelerating the operational and facilitation programme, one of our first steps was to introduce a new decision-making tool based on the economist Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics model, which has been utilised in all Cabinet decisions since September 2019 and has attracted interest from across the UK. The tool aims to show the environmental and social implications of proposed decisions to ensure that neither our climate nor residents are negatively impacted by the decisions the Council makes. The tool will be rolled out across all of our decision-making processes challenging our strategies, procurement and investment decisions with the purpose of placing people and the planet at the heart of our policies and decisions.

Utilising the principles of the wheel the Council has committed to halting the installation of fossil fuel heating in new Council-built properties; approved funding for a 2.3MW wind turbine that will generate enough electricity for 1,200 homes and has co-invested £1.4 million in deep geothermal energy at the Eden Project alongside European funding and institutional investors. My Cabinet colleagues and I also approved a £2 million investment into the £17 million Saints Trail development which once completed will provide a 30Km network of trails that will connect coastal communities, link housing and employment growth areas, helping to reduce transport emissions and improve air quality. This focus on modal shift is aligned to £23.5 million of Government funding secured for a pilot that has reduced bus fares across Cornwall to encourage people out of private vehicles.

Cornwall has a proud history of partnership working and we look forward to sharing learning as part of the UK:100 and developing stronger and more powerful associations with like-minded authorities.

Through our research we discovered a ‘policy corridor’ running across the centre of England in which Government has concentrated its infrastructure and innovation investment. With this in mind Cornwall Council initiated Britain’s Leading Edge – a collaboration of upper tier local authority areas that are mainly or largely rural with no major cities echoing the sentiment of the Countryside Climate Network. We know Cornwall and England’s other rural regions are keeping the lights on for the nation producing 37% of England’s renewable energy. Rich in natural and social capital – we collectively offer the secure supplies of clean renewable energy essential to today’s challenged national grid and tomorrow’s decarbonised economy.

Cornwall is already playing a leading role in producing clean energy with around 40% of our power coming from renewables, with an ambition to produce much more. In joining the UK100 and the Countryside Climate Network we are reinforcing this ambition with our pledge to achieve 100% clean energy from fully renewable sources and helping to accelerate the UK’s transition to net zero.

It will be a privilege to join forces with other leading rural local authorities to influence and drive forward the crucial change needed for the UK to bring about environmental, health and economic benefits for our communities.

We are looking forward to making a better future for us all. We have recently pledged to speed up our own climate emergency plan, as part of our Covid-19 recovery work, and will be expanding the use our pioneering decision-making tool to help shape a better future for us all. Prioritising environmental and social benefits to ensure our decision making helps our people and planet to thrive, will be a key pillar of our work to help our residents, businesses and communities to become more resilient in a period of unprecedented change.

Cllr. Edwina Hannaford is the portfolio holder for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods at Cornwall Council.

Herne Bay’s groundbreaking green hydrogen plant, by Cllr. Dan Watkins

Earlier this month planning permission was given by Canterbury City Council for the construction of the UK’s first green hydrogen plant in the UK. I was heavily involved with this process as the plant will be located in my own ward, and perhaps inevitably with such a new technology, local residents had a number of safety concerns about it.

Operated by Ryse Hydrogen, and located on Council land on the edge of Herne Bay, the hydrogen produced will be 100% ‘green’, having been created using renewable energy from the nearby Kentish Flats offshore wind farm. The first customer for the fuel will be a new fleet of hydrogen-powered London buses, which will be emission-free since the gas produces no carbon emissions when burnt.

As such, this project plant will support the Council’s ambitious targets to reach carbon net-zero, with capacity to produce enough hydrogen fuel to power 300 buses (in place of highly polluting diesel). Only a small fraction of the full capacity of the proposed plant is committed to support Transport for London, with the developer intending to supply hydrogen to bus operators in Kent in future, reducing carbon emissions and improving air quality in the county. This is a major issue locally as locations in Herne and Canterbury regularly see pollution from petrol and diesel vehicles running at a dangerous level and contributing to respiratory illnesses and deaths. Hydrogen fuel offers a solution to this public health risk.

Going forward, the hydrogen from the Ryse plant could also be used to replace diesel in other heavy vehicles, such as trucks and refuse collection vehicles. Longer-term it could also replace the burning of natural gas for the heating of homes and offices, with such trials now underway in the UK. Hydrogen is a very flexible fuel and replaces carbon emissions from the sectors where fossil fuels are most ingrained.

Some local residents had expressed concerns in the planning consultation relating to the safety of the plant. Ryse had assured local residents that their plant will use modern equipment with industry-leading safety standards, but nonetheless, I was involved in many conversations with local residents talking about the project, its benefits and the degree of risk it represented. Ultimately I was reassured by the fact that the global hydrogen industry is already huge, valued at $125 billion, and the company supplying the equipment for this plant has over 3,000 sites across the world.

Once constructed, the manufacturing plant will be the first of its kind in Britain and position Herne Bay at the forefront of the green economy, bringing employment and environmental benefits to our community. I hope that by having championed this first factory, it will be easier for other developers and councils to bring forward their own plans for similar hydrogen projects in their areas.

Dan Watkins is the Climate Change Champion for Canterbury City Council and the Councillor for Greenhill Ward. Canterbury City Council is a founder member of the UK100 Countryside Climate Network.

Open letter from the founders of the Countryside Climate Network

Our rural communities are at the frontline of feeling the effects of climate change. The driest of springs follows a winter of floods. Damaging our food production, bringing hardship to our villages and towns. But we can also be at the forefront of climate action too.

The countryside offers far more than a place to plant millions of trees to offset carbon emissions from elsewhere. Rural communities have always been a great source of national progress and innovation. This is why we have joined forces with UK100 to launch the Countryside Climate Network.

We are a new group of ambitious Council Leaders from predominantly rural parts of the country, collectively representing 40% of England’s land area.

Our goal is to ensure that the voice of rural knowledge and experience on climate action is listened to in Westminster. We need to be an active participant in transforming our national economy into one that saves, rather than harms, our environment. We stand ready to do our bit in the national interest of securing a net zero future for the UK.


– Cambridgeshire County Council

Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council

– Adur District Council

Cllr Neil Parkin, Leader of Adur District Council

– Canterbury District Council

Cllr Dan Watkins, Climate Change and Cycling Champion, Canterbury District Council

Cllr Barbara Flack, Chairman of the Rural Forum and Equality and Diversity Champion, Canterbury District Council

– Central Bedfordshire Council

Cllr Steven Dixon, Executive Member for Transformation and External Bodies, Central Bedfordshire Council

– Cornwall Council

Cllr Edwina Hannaford, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Neighbourhoods, Cornwall Council

– Cotswold District Council

Cllr Joe Harris, Leader of Cotswold District Council

Cllr Rachel Coxcoon, Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Forward Planning, Cotswold District Council

– Durham County Council

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council

Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet member, Economic Regeneration, Durham County Council

Cllr John D Clare, Climate Change Champion, Durham County Council

– Derbyshire County Council

Cllr Tony King, Cabinet Member for Clean Growth & Regeneration, Derbyshire County Council

– Essex County Council

Cllr Simon Walsh, Cabinet Member for Climate Change Action, Essex County Council

– Gloucestershire County Council

Cllr Nigel Moor, Cabinet Member Environment & Planning, Gloucestershire County Council

– Hampshire County Council

Cllr Keith Mans, Leader of Hampshire County Council

– Herefordshire Unitary Authority

Cllr Ellie Chowns, Cabinet Member for Environment, Economy and Skills, Herefordshire Council

– Leicestershire County Council

Cllr Blake Pain, Lead Member for Environment and Action on Climate Change, Leicestershire County Council

– North Yorkshire County Council

Cllr Carl Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council

– Shropshire Unitary Authority

Cllr Dean Carroll, Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Climate Change, Shropshire Council

– Somerset County Council

Cllr David Fothergill, Leader of Somerset County Council

– South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority

Cllr Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council

– South Lakeland District Council

Cllr Giles Archibald, Leader of South Lakeland District Council

Cllr Dyan Jones, Cabinet Member for Climate Emergency and Localism, South Lakeland District Council

– Suffolk County Council

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council

Cllr Richard Rout, Cabinet Member for Environment & Public Protection, Suffolk County Council

– Wiltshire Unitary Authority

Cllr Philip Whitehead, Leader of Wiltshire Council

– Worthing Borough Council

Cllr Daniel Humphreys, Leader of Worthing Borough Council


Climate change is a rural issue, by Cllr Steve Count

I was intrigued to discover that over 60 years ago the first ever low-emissions tractor was built. A working prototype was built by manufacturer Allis-Chalmers, but never made it to commercial sales.

Today, many farmers are looking to switch from red diesel to hydrogen power to save money and our planet. Reducing the impact of agriculture on pollution and global warming is just one example of how rural people play our part in tackling climate change.

It’s no surprise after the devastating floods of last winter. Extreme weather events have doubled in the last three decades as torrential rainfall left meteorological records and communities in tatters.

This is a historic moment – public opinion is shifting rapidly with a resurgence of appreciation for the natural environment where we’ve walked, cycled and exercised during lockdown.

A moment to rebuild our economy, and reshape our country to meet the ambition of ‘Net Zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 and to level up all parts of the country. A green recovery that works for the two thirds that live outside the most urban cities and towns.

As the Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, I am keenly aware of the need to balance economic recovery against environmental catastrophe. We are low-lying and vulnerable to sea level rise, yet far from a rural backwater, Cambridgeshire has the highest number of entrepreneurs per capita nationally, many focussed on advanced cleantech.

From Cornwall to County Durham we have decided to take a stand. We’re frustrated that climate solutions and green recovery packages to date have largely missed the rural voice. The Government’s £100bn infrastructure fund needs to support the ambitions of rural areas and the opportunities our countryside and green infrastructure can provide.

It can be hard to meet our ambitions when urban transport services don’t receive funding to reach out to remote communities or because investing in broadband for isolated areas isn’t economically viable. These examples of typical rural disadvantage combined with a funding gap in rural areas twice that of our urban counterparts, diminishing our stretched resources further.

Learning from and working with others is central to the scale and pace of change we need. That’s why 21 rural councils have joined forces with UK100 to create and launch the Countryside Climate Network for ambitious local leaders who want to do more, find solutions and achieve Net Zero goals.

Our rural communities can do more than just plant trees, we know first-hand how climate change impacts our land, food crop productivity, rainfall runoff, abundance of wildlife and rhythm of nature. From the Silicon Fen to the Scottish Highlands, we must harness our collective ingenuity.

However, rural communities face unfair barriers in trying to decarbonise. It is harder to attract funding for projects which don’t fit traditional cost benefit analyses, which favour urban concentrations yet may have less overall carbon reduction impact.

Yet there are great examples of work being done around the UK by councils in the newly established Countryside Climate Network.

Cornwall Council is developing a comprehensive Climate Change Development Plan. With support from Highways England, they are creating the Saints Trail: 30km of cycle and walking tracks to tackle traffic congestion, improve healthy travel options and dispel the myth that cars are the only option for travel in rural areas.

County Durham’s Business Energy Efficiency Project provides advice, free energy audits and grants to rural businesses, to reduce energy bills and carbon dioxide emissions.

Canterbury District Council’s support for a ‘green hydrogen’ plant, will draw electricity from offshore wind farms to create hydrogen to power clean buses.

North Yorkshire has reduced its street lighting energy consumption by investing in LED technology, reducing 4,000 tonnes of carbon emissions and saving the taxpayer £1.4m a year.

And closer to home, the Cambridgeshire village of Swaffham Prior demonstrates how a whole community can shift from oil to a renewable energy source. Thanks to a partnership between the community, my council and the Government, a planned district heating solution incorporating both a ground and air source heating solution will save costs for householders and 47,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over 40 years.

Imagine the impact if this were replicated in every village in the UK or in the 1 million households that still use oil fired central heating?

For the nation to tackle climate change and achieve Net Zero, the countryside must be at the heart of the conversation about a green recovery – before it’s too late.

Cllr Steve Count, Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and Chair of the Countryside Climate Network

An abridged version of this comment piece appeared on the Daily Telegraph website.

Leicester City Council Models PM2.5

Author: Adam Clarke, Deputy Mayor Leicester City Council

Leicester is set to be the first UK city to study and model locally-based fine particulate pollution (PM2.5).  

While we wait for the response to the air quality plan we produced as a result of our DEFRA direction, we can take some confidence that Leicester is now recording the lowest levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) ever recorded. However, we know more needs to be done to improve air quality across the board; not least in our understanding and management of levels of PM2.5.

Earlier this year we were awarded almost £250,000 from the government’s Air Quality Grant scheme to monitor, map and make the public more aware of PM2.5 and how it affects our city and our health.

There is currently no requirement to monitor PM2.5, but we have the skills and knowledge in Leicester to take a lead in better understanding this pollutant and its risk to health. We also know that the Environment Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech before the General Election includes provision to set a legally binding target – so it is in our interest to act now. 

As Tim Smedley noted in his excellent book Clearing the Air – The beginning and the End of Air Pollution (Bloomsbury,2019) “comparing the PM2.5 levels in different cities is not always straightforward…The official monitoring stations are often too few in number.” Our project will look at innovative ways of gathering and communicating data. We hope that this will inform everything from policy decisions at city-scale, to behaviour change at an individual level. As a pilot project, we see the potential to develop a way of working that we can share with other cities, to make comparing more straightforward. 

Local company, EarthSense, has recently been commissioned to provide expertise and technological solutions to fulfil the aims of the project, which will see eleven Zephyr® air quality sensors installed at strategic fixed locations across the city, on electric bikes and in electric cars. 

The data collected will help build a clearer picture of where pollution originates and where in the city is most affected. We’ll be producing a high-resolution map showing Near Real Time air quality data which will show PM2.5 and other pollutants such as NO2. We’re also looking at innovative ways of making data available to residents to inform healthy choices.

Reducing roadside and other locally derived PM2.5 from sources such as wood burning stoves will result in local action, but transported pollution from outside of our constrained administrative boundary will require partnership and literally a ‘fair wind’ to reduce levels. We’re keen to use this opportunity to develop and share our learning with other cities and jurisdictions, so I look forward to discussing this exciting project more with UK100 local authorities as it develops.

Climate Emergency Budget

Author: Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford

It’s time to be hopeful. After another bruising election, our country may be as divided as we’ve ever been. But Oxford City Council is putting party politics to one side to restore the feeling of belonging we’ve lost. Our climate crisis causes concern, but it’s also forcing action which can make that sense of community – so essential to happy lives – a reality once again.

During the summer a ‘mini-public’ representing Oxford’s demographics met for two weekends as part of a Citizen’s Assembly on Climate Change, the first by a UK city to learn about the issue and agree options to cut emissions. Supported by Oxford’s political parties, the Assembly did as we hoped, and ensured viewpoints and voices that often go unheard could shape decisions.

The Assembly was clear: 90% of Members drawn from all backgrounds were eager for us to become sustainable quicker than the legal target nationwide.

If you tell the public there’s a climate emergency, you have to act like there’s one. We held the Assembly within eight months of declaring a climate emergency. If you hold a Citizens’ Assembly, you must listen to what it says. 55 days on from the close of the Assembly, the Council is publishing a climate emergency budget which respects the will of the Assembly.

Our budget commits at least £18m of new investment plus £1m of new money to ensure we can make a success of this investment. This new funding aims to make an immediate impact and comes on top of £84m of ongoing measures brought into the county by the Council.

The Council accounts for 1% of Oxford’s emissions and, although we’ve slashed our emissions by 40% in four years, we want to clean 100% of our 1% footprint. We pay the Oxford Living Wage to ensure employees can be free from poverty and accept this higher staffing cost because it’s the right thing to do. Now, we will buy certified green gas and electricity and offset our remaining emissions through the planting of trees in south-east England because we must not contribute to the climate crisis.

Oxford City Council will be a net Zero Carbon Council from October 2020 and speed up reductions of any underlying emissions.

The complexity of the climate crisis was clear to the Assembly, particularly in the area of buildings which make up 81% of the city’s emissions. Work is underway to fully understand what we need to do to decarbonize buildings. This will conclude in 2020, so that next year’s budget can wisely and prudently spend public money that will reduce buildings’ emissions.

After buildings, transport is the second biggest emissions source. Responding to the Assembly, at least a quarter of the council’s vehicles will be electric by 2023 at the latest. A £40m investment, the Energy Superhub, offers an opportunity to electrify the whole fleet much faster. 400 electric vehicle chargers will power non-polluting vehicles, while our budget enables Oxford’s Zero Emissions Zone and Connecting Oxford plans to address polluted air and emissions and encourage public transport.

The Assembly believed we should increase the use of renewable energy and build up the city’s community renewable energy economy. This month, we are opening one of the country’s largest solar carports which will power Blackbird Leys pool and leisure centre.

The Assembly was confused about how recycling works, so the budget commits new funding to boost education and information, so that more households recycle effectively. It’s not just about recycling—it’s about reducing waste and re-use, so we’ll fund a zero waste festival, repair café, clothes swish, and swap shop in the summer of 2020. Waste reduction is something the community can do.

A major conclusion of the Assembly was that people must power decarbonization, so our £1.5m grants program will support community action and engage people not engaged with climate action from early 2020, just as our Assembly did. We hope communities will continue to enhance our biodiversity and, in April 2020, we will bring forward new plans to increase our tree cover.

A new youth climate board will provide for the views of young people who live, work, and study in the city, and this board will co-produce and co-host a Youth Climate Action Summit by May 2020 to shape our future work.

The Assembly believed that we need to use our position and influence to ensure all emitters play their part. We’ll fund a brand new Zero Carbon Oxford partnership, the aims of which will be decided by a major climate summit of emitters by March 2020.

The crisis is complex and makes a speedy response in some areas a complex affair. With our leadership and example, we hope to attract even more than the £84 million already invested on decarbonisation. We will do our best to alter and direct the flow of national politics on climate issues, so that Oxford is in prime position to win more funding and do more.

After a decade of national politicians telling the public to give up more and bail out the country, who can blame the public if they shrink from the question ‘What have you given up for climate change?’ When you feel exhausted, powerless, unheard, along comes Greta and Extinction Rebellion. But, with our people powered, cross-party, and socially just measures, we want to show that a better way is possible.

Our climate emergency budget is built on the shoulders of our Citizens’ Assembly. We are taking a leap forward towards a greener, kinder, and fairer city. Our hope truly is that, one day soon, the future will be better than the present, and because we work hard, we’ll make the present a bigger improvement on the past.

Our new climate emergency budget is built on the shoulders of our Assembly. With its investments, we’re building on a decade of action, moving into a year of ramped up activity, and laying the foundations for a kinder, fairer, and zero carbon city.

UK Leaders call for an Enhanced Clean Air Fund


A cross-party group of political leaders from across the country are calling for Government support to tackle air pollution. 14 Mayors and political leaders from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton and the West of England Combined Authority have today joined forces to call for the Government to support a network of 30 new and existing Clean Air Zones, where the most polluting vehicles are fined. A report released by UK100, a network of local leaders, shows that towns and cities could see an economic return of £6.5bn with support from the Government to tackle illegal levels of air pollution.

The Royal College of Physicians has assessed that the costs attributed to health problems resulting from exposure to air pollution are more than £20bn per year.  The group are urging the new Chancellor, Sajid Javid to make an enhanced Clean Air Fund the centrepiece of a Spending Round in support of the NHS, which is due to be published on 4 September.

With air pollution contributing to up to 36,000 deaths a year, the research shows that adequately funding existing Clean Air Zones and introducing new ones, which would charge the most polluting vehicles to enter towns and cities, could provide a boost to our health and the economy. (1)

A national network of up to 30 Clean Air Zones across England, including London, could be enhanced and unlocked if an additional £1.5bn is committed from Government and business to tackle air pollution in the most polluted towns and cities. This would bring together £1bn in the upcoming Spending Round alongside £500m from business contributions. (2) This would allow Clean Air Zones to be introduced in all of the places the Government warns will have illegal levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) by 2021. This includes towns and cities across the country such as Bristol, Coventry, Guildford, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle and Southampton.

The initial results from the UK’s first Clean Air Zone are encouraging. A report into the impact of London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zone) introduced in April this year shows that the numbers of older, polluting vehicles has reduced by over a quarter. (3)

Currently only six local authorities have plans to introduce such zones.(4) For existing and upcoming zones such as in London and Birmingham, it would support enhanced Vehicle Renewal schemes to support residents and small businesses to switch to cleaner transport.

A survey by Hitachi from earlier this year showed that a majority of the public are in favour of Clean Air Zones, with 50% supporting plans to charge motorists to enter a zone, while only 22% disagree. (5)

Under the UK100 plan, lower income residents and small businesses would be offered incentives of between £2,000 and £6,000 to either upgrade existing vehicles or get rid of their older, polluting vehicles and switch to a cleaner form of transport such as electric vehicles or public transport. As well as support for buying an ‘ultra low emissions’ vehicle, the cash could also be put toward car clubs, bike hire schemes or a public transport season ticket.

The report calls for a partnership with industry to contribute to a national vehicle renewal scheme, similar to how car manufacturers have contributed to the German Government’s Sustainability Mobility Fund for cities. London has received commitment from third party organisations (e.g. car clubs) for additional funding to support its car scrappage scheme