COLLABORATION

Climate scientists help UK fight climate change at the local level

SOURCE: Shutterstock
Solar roof panels are installed at some housing estates in the UK.

UK researchers have launched an online tool to help local governments calculate their carbon budgets and reduce emissions, as the country–and much of the developed world–ramp up efforts to address the growing threat of climate change.

Joining a clutch of countries from around the world, the UK recently pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a target seen as critical to reversing the crisis.

To date, some 66 nations have made the same commitment, although only 20 have incorporated it into national law. The UK was the first global economy to do so in June, when it passed the world’s first net-zero emissions law and cemented its commitment to the target.

In addition to public sector stakeholders, private sector firms and local communities have joined the battle to save planet earth, appreciating that the only way to achieve the UK’s climate change targets is by working as a collective.

Universities, as the cornerstones for the businesses and communities around them, have been front and center in the mission.

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The University of Manchester is among the few institutions that have displayed strong commitment to helping the UK achieve its climate targets. When the government declared a climate emergency in July, the school chimed in with pledges of its own, seeking to reinforce its own civic mission to be a sustainability-driven learning institution.

The online carbon budget tool is a project of the university’s, working in collaboration with the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change.

The unique new tool is now being used by local governments to understand their role in meeting the United Nation’s (UN) climate objectives.

With it, users are able to calculate the carbon budget of any administrative area larger than local authority scale, and then set carbon budgets to meet the objectives of the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The tool will calculate the maximum carbon budget for the selected area, as well as the projected emissions reduction pathway, interim budgets and the average emissions reduction rate. It then provides a downloadable PDF containing the method, results and recommendations for the carbon budget.

It is also free to use, and is compatible with the SCATTER carbon footprint tool and CDP sustainability reporting.

UK climate change
An aerial view of a solar energy production farm in South Wales, UK. Source: Shutterstock

According to a press release on its launch, the tool is based on the latest synthesis report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the relation between global warming, human activities and carbon dioxide emissions in the air.

“Our approach applies principles from the Paris Agreement to scale this global carbon budget down to the UK and a set of clearly stated allocation principles to share the carbon budget between local areas,” University of Manchester’s Dr Chris Jones said.

For local and devolved governments, using the Tyndall carbon budget tool makes sense, he said, as it allowed them to translate the Paris Agreement into real carbon reduction commitments using actual science.

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The tool is of particular relevance to the local authorities in UK that have declared a climate change emergency.

More than half of a total 408 have already done so, making it one of the fastest-growing environmental movements in national history. Many have even set 2030 as their target date to go net-zero, 20 years ahead of the national target.

With the Tyndall tool, local authorities would be able to better understand the scale of the challenge they face at the local level. For now, 27 local authorities have piloted it, including Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. The Greater Manchester Council also used the method and data behind the tool to set targets at the recent Green Summit in the city.

“The Tyndall Centre team has worked closely with the authority in the application and interpretation of the on-line carbon budget tool,” said Michael Keenlyside, Environmental Sustainability Officer at North Tyneside Council.

This is the first time we have seen a visual representation of the scale of challenge to tackle our fair contribution of carbon emissions reduction as per the Paris Agreement.

“It’s important to us that the online tool uses the latest science on climate change and the most robust data to provide us with clear science-based projections,” he added.