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‘Monumental effort across the city’ needed to get Cardiff to carbon neutral by 2030

15 Oct 2021 6 minute read
Lowther Road, Cathays, Cardiff. Picture by Jeremy Segrott. (CC BY 2.0)

Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter

A monumental effort across the city is needed to get Cardiff to carbon neutral by 2030, council bosses have said.

A major push to change public behaviour will take place over the next few years to get people in Cardiff to play their part in cutting carbon emissions.

Driving less, eating less meat, and heating homes differently are all seen as critical in hitting the city’s ambitious targets to tackle climate change.

Cardiff council’s cabinet signed off its One Planet Cardiff strategy on Thursday, October 14, setting out a wide-ranging action plan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Council leader Huw Thomas said: “There is no denying the huge scale of the challenge ahead of us. We will need not just the council to respond to this challenge, but also governments and the city’s residents as well.

“But from what I see looking at other cities, Cardiff is playing a leading role.”

‘Fundemantal change’

The goal is to reduce the city’s carbon emissions—currently more than 1.6 million tonnes a year—to net zero. Much of that reduction is planned to come from changing how people travel around the city. Council experts estimate the transport white paper would remove more than 300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, mostly from people choosing not to drive.

The transport white paper, revealed at the start of last year, includes building new tram-train lines as part of the South Wales Metro project; potentially introducing a road user charge of £2 a day for drivers coming into Cardiff; installing a huge network of segregated cycle lanes; and giving more priority to buses on the road network and possibly capping bus fares.

Another major push coming up will be a council campaign to get individuals to change their behaviour. This could mean a “fundamental change in lifestyle” and the council is planning to work with local schools in encouraging young people to drive forward behaviour changes.

According to the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation, the top actions individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint are: living car-free; shifting to electric vehicles or public transport; flying less often; using renewable energy; retrofitting homes with better insulation and replacing gas boilers with heat pumps; and eating less meat.

Since the draft One Planet Cardiff strategy was published in October last year, experts have analysed the current carbon footprint of the city and the council. Details of this analysis and future plans to cut carbon emissions were revealed in a recent cabinet report.

The analysis looked at how much carbon is emitted directly by the council, including heating and powering its buildings and fuelling its vehicles, as well as indirect emissions from supply chains, construction and staff commuting.

The findings will help council bosses direct efforts to reduce emissions. Plans and projects already in place should reduce the council’s direct emissions by 60 per cent by 2030, the cabinet report said. Across Cardiff, most carbon emissions come from people driving and heating their homes, according to government data.

The climate action plan has several key objectives: reduce energy use, make buildings more energy-efficient, increase the supply of renewable energy, cut carbon emissions from supply chains, waste less and recycle more, plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide, make the city more resilient to cope with heatwaves and floods, and grow more food locally.

In the year from April 2019 to March 2020, the council estimated it was responsible for 184,904 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, mostly from procurement and staff commuting. During the same year, the whole of Cardiff emitted 1,626,059 tonnes of carbon dioxide, with about 41 per cent coming from transport and 27 per cent from homes.

Several council projects are already underway in cutting carbon emissions. These include retrofitting council buildings with better insulation, moving to electric vehicles, developing a district heat network in Cardiff Bay, running a nine-megawatt solar farm at Lamby Way, and tightening planning rules to make new buildings more energy efficient.

‘Stop sloganising’

Opposition councillors raised concerns about the strategy during the cabinet meeting. These included a lack of detail on how much all the projects will cost; how renters can’t pay to install heat pumps or retrofit insulation; and how some of the poorest people pay the most for gas.

Cllr Adrian Robson, Tory group leader, said: “I hope the council will adopt a carrot-then-stick approach, not a stick-then-carrot approach, so we can take residents with us when decisions are made. And at some point we’re going to need detail on how this is going to be funded and what the cost to the council will be.”

Cllr Emma Sandrey, Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said: “This could come across as quite finger-wagging, and we have to be mindful of how we can enable some of these changes. If you don’t own the property that you’re living in, it’s not going to fall down to you to do things like installing heat pumps or fixing insulation. These things are down to landlords, not tenants.”

Cllr Keith Parry, of the Propel group, said: “It’s got to be done in a way that doesn’t cost ordinary people and poorer people a fortune. Unfortunately if you try to push them out of gas by pushing up the cost, the poorest people who live in the worst insulated homes are going to suffer the most—unless their homes are insulated.”

Support in retrofitting old homes with better insulation will need to come from governments, according to Cllr Michael Michael, cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment. In 2019, homes in Cardiff burning gas emitted 325,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Britain is also reported to have some of the least insulated homes in Europe.

Cllr Michael said: “The council isn’t in a position to retrofit 50,000 houses, or to get 50,000 heat pumps. If the government is serious about achieving this then they have to stop sloganising and actually start delivering. There is a massive job creation ability there with retrofitting, thousands of manufacturing jobs in solar, wind and heat pump technology.”

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Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
2 years ago

This is a ludicrous goal until the Council has put in place a comprehensive integrated public transport system. The current setup is the worst I have come across in any European city.

2 years ago

And it must be integrated also with the surrounding towns in the Vale and the Valleys so the Welsh government and neighbouring towns need to be involved.
The Cardiff Metro seems to be an attempt to achieve a holistic approach to public transport in the area but it all seems to be taking a long time.

Jenny Howell
Jenny Howell
2 years ago

Air source heat pumps are promoted on the basis of a significant grant (£10,000) to cover installation costs. But this depends on a good EPC score. This entails pumping huge amounts of polystyrene into the cavities of your house and mixing with glue. We couldn’t do this because of the situation with the wall ties, and would have entailed, anyway, defacing a beautiful house with loads of holes. By refusing to do this, we lost the grant (although we are still fighting). This is not made clear at the outset and should be revisited. Like the lithium in electric cars,… Read more »

Sion Cwilt
Sion Cwilt
2 years ago

I’ve been hearing things like this from Cardiff Council for the past 30 years, and have often wondered at decisions taken by them that seem completely at odds with achieving the aims of reducing the city’s environmental impact, such as the approval of unnecessary developments such as Plasdwr, or not, when ample opportunities have presented themselves, banned private cars from the city centre entirely. Especially bizarre are planning agreements such as that which allowed 300+ parking spaces for the new BBC Cymru headquarters, which, in my opinion, should have been restricted to a handful of spaces for EVs used by… Read more »

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