News & Events

October 2020

Achieving net zero carbon through effective collaboration

Following its appointment earlier this year, a research consortium led by LDA Design working with City Science and Vectos, has embarked on a pioneering research project for the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to explore the role of spatial planning in achieving net-zero carbon transport. Transport is now the biggest emitting sector in the UK and decarbonising the network is crucial to achieving the UK’s target of net-zero emissions by 2050.

The scale of the task is significant. If we are to meet the Paris Agreement objective of keeping global temperature rises this century below 1.5 degrees Celsius, countries including the UK need to reduce carbon emissions by 7.6% each year up to 2030.  To put this into perspective, the International Energy Agency estimates only an 8% drop in global CO₂ emissions in 2020 owing to the impact of COVID-19. Without the pandemic, it is unlikely we would have come close, and it means that we would need a similar scale intervention every year. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has suggested even steeper reductions of 13% may be needed each year in order that we can be confident of hitting the 2050 net zero target.

To achieve such a radical drop in carbon emissions, at the same time as delivering more homes, a biodiverse environment and higher quality places, we need ambitious and innovative thinking as well as a shared goal and commitment from all stakeholders across the public and private sector. It needs the intelligence and experience of everyone involved to make it happen.

So, in a series of workshops, we have brought together an exceptional group of people from across the planning, built environment and mobility sectors to benefit from their insight and experience. Working with these stakeholders, we have explored a range of interventions that could contribute to achieving zero carbon transport in different types of place. The workshops have exposed the many challenges people face in planning and designing for zero carbon transport, but have also shown a cross-sector determination to find solutions to these challenges and deliver a step-change in mobility that goes far beyond traditional approaches to transport. Common themes have already emerged around the kinds of interventions that we should be prioritising, and the measures needed to implement these interventions and deliver change at all scales. Spatial planning and the design of our towns, cities and regions play a critical role in many of them.

The next stage of the project is a more forensic review of the different interventions that have emerged as priorities in the workshops, using City Science’s Decarbonisation Tool. This will test how different combinations of interventions could achieve the carbon reductions required.

The knowledge gained from the workshops and data modelling will be used to create a pathway to decarbonisation and a series of visions illustrating what a place planned to achieve zero carbon transport might look like.

The team hope to share further insights from the project over the coming weeks in advance of publication of the final research findings later this year.