Families in Bristol are having to choose between heating their homes and putting food on the table.
Climate breakdown might not be front of mind for those families, but for Bristol as a city it must be a priority.
So we’re starting afresh. We’re launching a new project that will help to meet those social needs in a way that does not put an unacceptable burden on our planet.
Bristol City Leap will deliver a zero-carbon, smart energy city which will deliver up to one billion pounds of investment and provide significant economic benefits for the people of Bristol and its businesses.
Led by Bristol City Council and Bristol Energy, the city’s energy company, City Leap will establish a joint venture with another organisation, or group of organisations, to support the delivery of the UK’s first carbon neutral city by 2030.
Bristol is the ideal city to pioneer this bold vision. We were the first major UK city to declare a climate emergency, we developed our own wind and solar farms back in 2005, and we had the honour in 2015 of being the UK’s first European Green Capital.
The UK’s 63 largest towns and cities are responsible for 50 percent of our carbon output, so have a huge responsibility in tackling climate breakdown.
But we can only achieve so much without government funding, and while Bristol City Council will continue to lobby and campaign the government to provide that investment, we will not sit idly by and wait for action on their part.
That’s why, as part of the City Leap initiative, we are searching for a partner or multiple partners to provide the heavy lifting in terms of investment.
The project will enable us to reduce our carbon emissions across energy, transport and industry and engage with businesses and residents to make a real difference.
City Leap will see Bristol increasingly move away from the national energy network and into more localised systems, with more people generating their own energy and increased investment into new renewable energy in the city.
Much of that investment will go into heat networks, which are hidden from view but can have a huge impact on local people. We recently developed a network for social housing residents in Redcliffe which has significantly reduced household bills and enabled residents to access low-carbon heat for their homes.
We are also hoping to implement a funding scheme which would allow homeowners to access subsidies for rooftop solar panels, and are looking at tightening new building regulations, particularly where insulation is concerned.
We’ll enable the transition to electric cars by investing in even more charge points and we’ll improve public transport links, which could include the development of a mass transit underground system.
At its heart, City Leap is a community-driven venture, with the goal of providing infrastructure to serve the people of Bristol into a net-zero 2030 and beyond.
The aim of Bristol Energy is to deliver energy with a social purpose, and its inclusion in the project will help to ensure we create a smart energy system that weaves a number of technologies together to deliver clean energy and that benefits local people.
We’re fortunate that we already have a number of community energy groups set up across Bristol who we regularly engage with on key issues, and City Leap will enable us to collaborate with them to ensure we can smoothly rollout new infrastructure to deliver a net-zero city that works for everyone.
That collaborative approach is also reflected within City Hall as we’ve seen all departments and political parties get behind the plan for City Leap.
These activities will bring new job opportunities to the city so we’re focused on delivering a just transition to deliver economic and environmental success for Bristol.
We’re very proud of our record on the environment in Bristol and our ambitions for the future, but the issue of climate breakdown is bigger than one city and one plan.
We want City Leap to inspire cities around the world to take action, so one of the key pillars of the project is to create something that is replicable.
Mass adoption and support of ventures similar to City Leap will not only improve the quality of life in cities across the world, but they have the potential to galvanise governments into action and help us to work together to tackle the biggest challenge that we face.
Councillor Kye Dudd is the Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport, Energy & The Green New Deal at Bristol City Council.