Bristol at the COP27 climate summit

The momentum for the role of cities in tackling climate change is growing. The UN COP27 climate summit outcome recognises the role of multi-level stakeholders including cities and local government in taking climate action and the need for increased collaboration. There was the first ever COP Ministerial meeting on Urbanization and Climate Change where city voices were represented. We also saw the launch of the Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation (SURGe), the first Presidency-led cities’ initiative in the COP process, which aims to accelerate local climate action. The role of young people in climate action and as part of national and COP formal processes was also encouraged.  

However, there is still a missed opportunity for having representation of the voices of cities and local government formally at the table with national leaders as part of the COP process. It is essential that mayors and city leaders continue to collaborate and raise cities’ voices internationally (through networks such as ICLEI and C40) to help shape the global context that impacts our cities.

I attended the COP27, focused around Finance Day, representing Bristol and other UK cities as part of the Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci), in partnership with C40 and as a member of the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) delegation coordinated by ICLEI. 70% of global emissions come from cities but we are also the places most able to deliver the transformation needed. So, my decision to go to COP was simple. Cities are where the battle against climate change will be won or lost.

Climate finance was a key focus for this COP, including the role of private finance. The implementation plan highlights that a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investments of at least $4-6 trillion a year, with a comprehensive transformation of the international finance system. There was a ground-breaking announcement for a Loss and Damage Fund to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damages they have incurred through climate change; and there was a call to finance institutions to raise ambition, change models and instruments to increase access to finance.

Bristol and all cities need to secure private sector funding to deliver a just transition to net zero, as the scale and speed needed means going beyond the public purse.  

At COP, with 3Ci and with other influential partners including C40 and the UN High Level Champion, we ran a series of events convening cities, investors, and government on what is needed to ensure successful public-private collaboration and unlock the private finance needed for a just transition of cities to net zero. The Government missed the chance to get us, and other key players, together before COP27 – though we were able to connect at His Majesty The King’s reception at Buckingham Palace. Now, national leaders should join local and industry leaders to continue dialogue and collaboration post COP.

  And we will continue this dialogue and collaboration post COP.

Our messages are clear:  

  • There’s no time to lose: cities are on the front line of the climate crisis and the infrastructure development needed is significant. Innovative approaches to public / private collaboration therefore need speed and scale.
  • The earlier the better: we want to work with investors early on to develop projects together than can be taken to the market.
  • National governments need to invest now: to support city / investor engagement, the bottlenecks of risk and capacity that will unlock private finance, saving public resources in the long term and unlocking the net zero potential of cities.
  • Cities are an opportunity for place-based investment: private investors are increasingly looking to deliver social and environmental outcomes.
  • Scale is needed: if urban net zero projects are to attract private and institutional capital, building aggregated project pipelines is essential like we are doing in Bristol through City Leap and as part of 3Ci.

We’re leading

Bristol is a leading voice on addressing the climate crisis. We were the first city in the UK to declare a climate emergency and I moved the LGA declaration for over 400 other councils. We declared an ecological emergency and have been recognised by the UK Climate Change Committee for our approach.

Bristol is tackling the climate crisis in a variety of different ways. We’re taking time to engage with all communities and businesses in our city to identify barriers and solutions to meet our carbon neutral ambitions. We have opened a new £7 million reuse and recycling centre on Hartcliffe Way.

We’re working with Business West and business leaders in our city to develop and promote our Climate Ask. Alongside this, we have a working relationship with six community partners from every corner of the city to ensure our transition to net zero is just and inclusive, and are supporting one of them to build the country’s largest on-shore wind turbine.

We’re investing

Our One City Climate Strategy sets out our plans to become climate resilient by 2030. Our £4 million climate and ecological emergency programme is underway, through which we have produced our Climate and Ecological Emergency Action Plans; developed our new Healthy and Sustainable Procurement policy; started leading a programme of public engagement, including 18 Climate Action Story videos and Climate Action Hub website. We have also launched the new Bristol Good Food 2030 website, provided support to businesses in partnership with Bristol Green Capital Partnership through the Climate Leaders and Climate Action programmes. We have launched the innovative Keep Bristol Cool mapping tool and City Pack which describes how our city’s climate is likely to change. We’ve taken responsibility to coordinate and support the whole city to plan to become net zero.

As a council, we’ve halved our direct emissions since 2015 and aim to reduce our own emissions to zero by 2025. We are pursuing this target through increased use of renewable energy such as replacing all our streetlighting with over 27,000 low energy LED bulbs, powering our buildings with renewable energy, and introducing sustainable procurement.

We’re enabling large-scale changes to the city’s infrastructure and transport networks, and have pedestrianised parts of the Old City, introduced bus priority and made walking and cycling improvements. Alongside this we have piloted School Streets, offered active travel packages for residents, and introduced over 100 biog-as buses.

As well as our own investment, we’ve secured an initial £424 million of investment in clean energy through City Leap. This will create 1,000 new jobs and cut around 140,000 tonnes of carbon emissions across our city over the first five years of the twenty-year partnership. We’ve committed to making our homes more efficient, spending £97 million to improve the energy efficiency of council-owned homes.

We’re innovating

As well as tried and tested means of reducing the emissions of the city and the council, we’re at the forefront of UK innovation with some of our projects.  As part of our heat decarbonisation promise, we’ve built the largest ground source heat-pump in the UK, which has won national awards. We’ve developed a unique mapping tool to identify areas of the city most vulnerable to heatwaves, to guide our planning in the present into the future.

We’re asking

The reality is, Bristol requires around £10 billion to decarbonise the city. The council is only responsible for around 0.5% of the city’s total (scope 1 and 2) emission, so the only way to achieve this necessary transition is to secure the investment we desperately need

Bristol is involved in the Cities Commission for Climate Investment (3Ci) (an initiative hosted in the UK’s innovation accelerator, Connected Places Catapult) which is enabling us to scale up our approach to cover the at least £10 billion needed to decarbonise the energy and transport in our city, that goes beyond Council owned assets. It aims to address the issue of scale through the development of a national project pipeline that will include our projects, a technical capacity building programme to support cities, a blended funding model and engagement with government and investors.

I want to thank 3Ci, as without their funding this important trip wouldn’t have been possible. UK Core Cities, including Bristol, are one of the founding partners, and we hosted an investment conference in Bristol in September.

Climate Ask

Businesses all over Bristol are already stepping up and doing their bit to help get our city to next zero.

But we really need more businesses and organisations to join the Bristol Climate Ask.

Sign up today and we can support you with finding the help and funding you need to create your plan to become net zero.

We are also asking you, as an individual, member of a community, employee, trader, or member of the media, to play your part. You might believe that your actions don’t make a difference, but they do. Changing one thing makes a difference, they only way we can create systemic change is together.

UK Cities Climate Investment Commission (3Ci) kindly covered the costs of my return travel, visa, and accommodation for attendance at COP27, as an Advisory Board Member and recognising Bristol’s national and global leadership role in tackling climate change.