Climate Change: An Evidence Based Approach

Climate Change: An Evidence Based Approach

In order to deliver on our Net Zero commitment, we must ensure we tackle emissions where they arise and we must deploy our limited resources to achieve the greatest carbon reduction impact.

We are not seeking to reduce all emissions from all sectors but instead to achieve Net Zero, so trade-offs between sectors must be considered where it makes technical and economic sense.

In order to take appropriate actions, we must understand the nature and sources of the climate emissions at city level by using reliable baseline information in order to determine an appropriate scale and type of intervention.

Perfect Data

Whilst data is very important to our climate change planning for mitigation and adaptation, we must not allow the absence of perfect data to prevent us taking action.

With the best intentions and in a quest to design a fully optimised approach for our climate action planning , we may find ourselves continually wanting to pursue better data before making fully informed decisions, without recognising that with constant change and disruptor events in the real world, we may never achieve such a situation.

Instead, we need to determine what data precision is good enough to make informed decisions, while also clearly differentiating between different types of data, and what data has operational value.

Key Performance Indicators

It is entirely possible to achieve emissions impact without any emissions data at all.

For example:

  • If a person wants to reduce her carbon footprint, so she intends to reduce her commercial air travel by 50%. Does she need to know the exact emissions incurred by flying to do this? No – it is sufficient to cut her airline miles travelled in half.
  • If she wants to reach zero emissions from flying, she could simply stop flying, requiring even less data analysis.

The same logic applies to cities using emissions from personal transport as an example, we can either measure the emissions from existing cars, or measure the rate of change by which we replace these cars with more sustainable options.

It is easier to count the number of electric vehicles in the city (relative to the total number of cars) than to measure city-wide emissions from existing fossil-fuelled cars.

The growing share of electric cars is a relative change - illustrating that emissions data should not be the primary focus when monitoring the rate of change.

We can develop specific and measurable Key Performance Indicators to tell us how we are performing in meeting our Net Zero commitment within the city.

Local Metrics of Performance

To allow pre- and post-intervention monitoring and determine the effectiveness of specific actions that we take, we intend to use a range of local metrics of performance including:

  • Urban Observatory real time monitored air quality, environmental and urban data
  • National datasets that can be calibrated at city-wide level (within the local authority boundary)
  • Transport data including cordon counts, patronage data from public transport operators, etc
  • Census data - due to be carried out in 2021
  • Energy efficiency and low carbon / renewable heating installation databases and Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) data derived at city-wide level
  • Maintained records of project / programme uptake
  • Waste collection, processing, recycling and landfill volume data
  • Among other local data sources

We recognise that this is an area which will require further development over the coming years to create Key Performance Indicators and a monitoring framework.

In some cases, the local structures and datasets are in place (such as the Urban Observatory), but in some cases we will need to work with city partners to seek access to existing but currently inaccessible datasets and establish new monitoring programmes.

National and Local Interaction

We must also take into account changes at a regional and national level and the impact that they will have on our local actions.

For example, the carbon intensity of the national grid is constantly evolving with a strong focus on decarbonisation (further information here) and the impact that this will have on our approach to heating homes and deploying low carbon transport infrastructure is fundamental to how we achieve our Net Zero commitment.