How Eunomia, the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and independent experts Sarah Toy and Jess Read worked together to build a practical, achievable roadmap for Liverpool City Council to reach Net Zero by 2030.

Climate change is as one of the most serious challenges threatening our planet. The effects are already being felt; temperatures are rising, more extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, are happening more often, and patterns of rainfall are shifting. These could have dire consequences for the way people live and work if nothing is done to meet this challenge.

In 2019, Liverpool City Council decided it was time to act. They declared a climate emergency, highlighting the seriousness and urgency of the problem.

They set themselves a challenging Net Zero target to reach by 2030, a full twenty years ahead of the one set by the UK government for the country as a whole.

To help them achieve this goal, in July 2020 they commissioned Eunomia, along with sub-contractors Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) and independent experts Sarah Toy and Jess Read to develop a roadmap for the city to achieve this testing target.

The scope

The scope of the project was to review the following four core sectors to determine what needs to be done:

  • Buildings and heat
  • Power supply
  • Transport
  • Waste

The project team was tasked with completing the following three key elements for these sectors:

  • Establishing an emissions baseline
  • Developing a practical and achievable Net Zero 2030 plan
  • Testing and sharing this plan with key stakeholders

The plan

To achieve these objectives, the project team devised a robust and detailed plan that included the following stages to achieve the three key elements:

Establishing an emissions baseline

Data was collected and interviews conducted with relevant parties to get as much background information as possible. Establishing the current baseline was essential to discover the starting point and to be able to measure progress effectively.

Developing a Net Zero plan

The next step was to begin modelling various options and assessing these to see how much difference they could potentially make to the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. Once this stage was complete, workshops were held with the key stakeholders to go through the options and see which ones could be viable. Following this, further refinements were made, and an initial plan drafted.

From the start the team decided there would be “no unicorns”. Everything included in the plan had to be possible with current technology, not reliant on any innovations that may be developed over the next decade. The plan developed was both specific and concrete, providing a solid foundation for decisive action, built around previous experience in cities like Bristol.

Testing and sharing

This plan was then shared with a wider audience to test whether it could be implemented to achieve the desired goals. A “walking around the issue” approach was adopted, meaning suggestions were viewed from every angle to make sure they remained grounded. This final stage was vital to ensure the project team ended up with something realistic.

The challenges

Getting buy-in from key stakeholders was crucial to the success of the project. The team had to establish good relationships as quickly as possible to ensure their action plan had strong buy-in and support. They conducted detailed sessions looking at each sector, going through all the issues and options, covering all angles.

This process was made more challenging as political control changed within the city council during the project, with new cabinet members becoming involved. They came to the project fresh, with no prior knowledge and limited background information. To keep support strong, training sessions were re-run, allowing these new members to get up to speed and understand decisions that had been previously taken. Adopting a flexible approach and anticipating potential areas of conflict was vital to keep the project on track.

The results

The culmination of this process is a fully designed, public facing plan for Liverpool, setting out how the City can achieve Net Zero by 2030. It is supported by six technical appendices, each containing evidence-based solutions for action. While major challenges still exist in certain sectors, such as transport and buildings and heating, the plan highlights what is required to reach their goal. To be successful across the board, it will rely on action being taken in other parts of the UK, which is beyond the council’s control. However, the city has a plan to follow over the next decade, based on tried and tested elements, that can make Net Zero a reality.

Alex Massie from Eunomia said “This was both a complex and exciting project to work on. Liverpool City Council have taken the very brave decision to aim to reach Net Zero in less than a decade and we admire their passion and determination to achieve it. This is exactly the kind of challenge we relish as an organisation, and we are delighted with the outcomes produced. It is really pleasing that we were able to coordinate so many different groups and interests to create a practical action plan.”

Christine Darbyshire from Liverpool City Council added “Working with Eunomia was a positive experience, the team kept strictly to project timescales and budgets and were easy to communicate with. There was clear project management and leadership and good management of the various disciplines underneath that. The members of the team were knowledgeable within their own specialist disciplines.”