Net Zero Exeter 2020

| 10th January 2020
Liz O'Driscol
OggaDoon Comms
Net Zero Exeter Festival will build community, make connections and offer opportunities for collaboration.


Exeter City Council declared a climate emergency in July of last year, and committed to making Exeter a carbon neutral City by 2030.

Recognising that a commitment to make a whole city carbon neutral is beyond the authority of a single Council, especially one that does not have unitary authority, the Council asked Exeter City Futures to generate a collective roadmap for a just transition to a carbon neutral City. 

The Net Zero Exeter festival will the launch event of Exeter's 10 year journey to become carbon neutral. We spoke with Dr Liz O’Driscoll, managing Director at Exeter City Futures, about the event. It will take place in March 2020. 

What is Net Zero Exeter Festival and when is it taking place?

Our purpose is to engage and inspire individuals, businesses, and communities to consider how they can be part of this change. The event is currently scheduled to start on 26th March 2020 in the centre of Exeter. 

We believe that, with our collaborative governance structure, community and business networks, we can provide focus and coordination to this bold ambition.

What sort of activities can we expect to see during the festival?

The overall festival is not about working out what to do, but working out what is standing in our way. There will be a combination of formal presentations and panel discussions, along with exhibition spaces showcasing great projects in the City, potential new technologies, and output from community engagement activities. 

We are hoping that there will be fringe events too, run by our partners which could range from schools to clubs to businesses.

If you’re based in Exeter or the surrounding region, please do get in touch to see how you can be involved!

What is your role in the organization of the Net Zero Exeter?

I joined Exeter City Futures because I genuinely believed that we could make better and stronger change for the planet and for people if we acted together as a whole city community.

Net Zero Exeter is the chance for us to start acting like that community, creating new relationships, making connections, and spotting opportunities to collaborate. I’m excited to lead the agenda but most importantly, to create a space for others to share.

Exeter City Futures is curating a shared roadmap for Exeter to become a carbon neutral City by 2030. We have 12 Goals which form the framework we will use to develop the City’s response to this ambition, established as a result of engagement with residents and businesses of the City. 

This “net-zero blueprint” has been developed from extensive research and builds on our Energy Independence Report. It is important to recognise that many of the features in the blueprint present considerable financial, technical, political, and behavioural challenges to all organisations and individuals across the City. 

In the run up to the event, we will be running workshops to uncover key barriers faced by the political leaders, business community, and local residents’ groups. The outcomes from these will directly influence our programme. Our key aim for the event is to create an open platform to discuss these challenges from the perspectives of all those affected.

Do you think Net Zero Exeter will have an impact that goes beyond Exeter? For example, in influencing other UK cities to be more active in becoming carbon neutral?

The challenges that Exeter faces in becoming carbon neutral are likely to be similar to those faced by all cities. We are confident that what is learnt from our approach can be shared widely and will bring benefits across the UK as many cities start to take practical action on climate change. 

I believe that people and organisations within cities have the power to drive change and I would love for people in other cities to take this article to their local Councillors or business leaders and say, “we can do this too”.

How can individuals, companies, communities and organizations get involved?

We are already planning a media pack to inform people of the event and a microsite will be launched with the outline programme in January. This will provide all the information about the event and offer information to potential fringe event organisers.

What are the long term goals for the future of Net Zero Exeter?

Net Zero Exeter is intended as something that people can get behind for the next 10 years. We have a long journey ahead as Exeter moves towards our ambition to become carbon neutral.

This event is the first step, ensuring that we communicate with and engage with the widest possible audience, all of whom will have a vital role to play.

This Interviewee

Dr Liz O'Driscoll is managing director at Exeter City Future. 

Want to learn more? Visit Exeter City Futures website here


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate now.