DecarboN8 at Leeds State of the City

The Climate Emergency was the theme of Leeds City Council’s State of the City event this year. Several members of the DecarboN8 team attended to talk with participants about what they felt needed to change in order for Leeds to become a city where you do not need to own a car.

Councillor Judith Blake opened the event by sharing a vision of Leeds as a place where it doesn’t matter where you were born, you should have equal access to opportunities, clean air, transport, and quality of life. The people we spoke to found it easy to imagine how reducing our dependence on cars could help achieve this goal. There was an overwhelming sentiment that a city the size of Leeds should have great public transport. People are ready to ditch their cars in favour of more sustainable options, but they are finding it difficult to shift away from car-use due to the high cost, poor coverage, and lack of capacity on trains and buses serving the Leeds area at the moment. They also feel unsafe cycling and walking in our car-packed city.

DecarboN8 Director, Professor Greg Marsden, shared this presentation with a workshop which looked at transport, challenging participants to think about what changes would be required to make Leeds a less car-dependant city:

Later in the workshop we were asked to map our journeys around Leeds, consider where we could shift those journeys to more sustainable travel options, and discuss what barriers prevent us from choosing those options. Participants spoke of having to travel by car for most journeys because public transport options were unavailable, unreliable, too costly, or felt unsafe. Others mentioned peripheral factors such as their children’s school not providing anywhere for the children to store their coats, making walking difficult, especially in winter.

DecarboN8 also had a stall in the exhibition area, where we provided maps of the Leeds area to participants and invited them to draw their ideal transport future for Leeds. You can see their responses in the slide deck below. Common themes include: the need for circular public transport routes connecting suburbs, congestion charging, a pedestrianised city centre and safe walking and cycle paths.

Keynote speaker, Natalie Fee, from City to Sea shared this quote:

“We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing”. ~ Tony Robbins

The conversations we had at the State of the City event suggest that people in Leeds care about the climate crisis and are keen to change their behaviour, but at the moment the pain of changing still feels too great. Those we spoke to concurred that to shift this, balance better public transport and active travel options must be extended across the city to provide safe and reliable alternatives to the car, fit for the complex realities of people’s day to day lives.

DecarboN8 is offering seedcorn funding to develop research projects to tackle these kinds of issues. The deadline for applications is 5pm on 27th February 2020.

Decarbonising Transport: Connecting Carbon Targets to Action

Earlier this month we held our first workshop on the theme of Carbon Pathways, ‘Decarbonising Transport: Connecting Carbon Targets to Action’. The workshop was attended by a mix of people from academia, local and national government, industry and civil society. Participants heard evidence from members of the DecarboN8 team and the CREDS Centre (slides for these presentations are shared below) about the scale and nature of the decarbonisation challenge. Through a series of participatory activities, attendees shared their local and professional knowledge to interrogate how carbon budgets can best be used to inform transport policy and modelled possibilities for a low-carbon transport future in a variety of Northern locations.

The morning’s break out activities on carbon targets will directly inform a forthcoming series of policy briefings. The afternoon activities underlined the value of taking place-based approaches when thinking about decarbonisation pathways. The very different urban and rural cases, when considered over both the short and long term, produced some fascinating contrasts. A key challenge will be to produce a supportive policy framework and set of technologies which can encompass and adapt to these differences. Insights and challenges identified throughout the day are already being used to inform DecarboN8’s research priorities.

Introduction to DecarboN8

Professor Greg Marsden

CREDS: The Carbon Briefing

Professor Jillian Anable

Aligning UK Car CO2 with Paris

Professor Kevin Anderson

Making Mobility Futures: Carbon Pathways and Societal Readiness

Professor Monika Büscher and Dr Nicola Spurling

Our aim with this series of thematic workshops is to inform research objectives for future funding calls and to inspire collaboration by bringing together a variety of stakeholders interested in decarbonising transport.

For regular updates about upcoming projects, events and funding calls subscribe to our newsletter. We’ve also recently announced our first round of seedcorn funding. The deadline is 27th February and we welcome applications from all disciplines to develop research projects to help decarbonise transport in the North.

Aligning UK Car Emissions with the Paris Agreement

Contributed by Kevin Anderson

Taking the temperature and equity commitments enshrined in the Paris Agreement at face value places mitigation demands on wealthy industrial nations far beyond anything thus far countenanced. Interpreting Paris through the science in the IPCC’s most recent report demonstrates the importance of living within a tight and rapidly dwindling carbon budget.

Provisional work by UKERC and Tyndall Manchester for Decarbon8, estimates a UK Paris-compliant carbon budget, subsequently apportioned to different UK sectors, including car travel. The implications are profound. Even if the UK car fleet is completely decarbonised by 2035, the number of vehicle-km travelled will still need to be cut in half if the sector is to make its fair contribution to delivering on the Paris commitments.

DecarboN8: a new approach to place-based decarbonisation

Professor Greg Marsden, University of Leeds

This blog celebrates the launch of a new research network called DecarboN8. The network is working with Universities across the N8 research partnership, local authorities and industry across the North to develop an integrated test bed and provide open data on carbon to enable researchers to tackle our critical decarbonisation challenge in transport. But why the North and why indeed ‘place’ based carbon planning?

We already know that there are major differences (more than 100%) between per capita climate change emissions from transport between different local authorities (see Figure 1). This reflects the fact that there are different geographies, different transport alternatives and different fleets. In short, there are different problems and different opportunities. We should therefore be thinking about the potential for different solutions in different places.


Figure 1: Major disparities in per capita CO2 from transport (Source: BEIS 2019)

However, it is not that simple. Vehicles rarely reside solely within one local authority area and might require refuelling or maintenance infrastructure in a wide range of places. This is even more true when heavy goods vehicles are considered. So, there are lots of research challenges to be addressed to understand over what spatial scales co-ordination matters and when local diversity of approach will get us to Net Zero faster.

The North is also an interesting test-bed to develop as it is an area which has pan-regional transport governance through Transport for the North which has been developing its carbon knowledgebase and policies. Underneath that there are a range of agencies on roads, rail, regional and local transport. There are significant uncertainties about the sorts of demand futures that might be planned for and, therefore, the right balance between building carbon intensive infrastructure for different modes or investing in better use of existing assets is difficult to assess. Our work will be trying to develop tools to understand those trade-offs and solutions to deal with the highest carbon issues which arise.


Figure 2: Cross-boundary collaboration will be a key issue in the network ((c)Len Williams)

Finally, we believe that the scale of the carbon transition will pose significant challenges to society. The transition risks being very uneven and this needs to be understood, carbon understanding built and communities brought in to the design of policies and solutions if there is to be any chance of a transition in practice. We will be engaging extensively with the public and with decision-makers across the region as part of our research programme.

The network is open to academics from across the UK, local, regional and national government, industry and community groups. If you would like to follow the activities of the network or help develop a transformational trial in the North then please get in touch.