UK funding to help developing cities transition to net zero

A new £27.5m UK Urban Climate Action Programme has been launched to help developing cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America tackle the climate emergency.

The UK is calling on cities and regions across the world to commit to net zero emissions by 2050 in its presidency role at COP26.

The world’s urban buildings are responsible for around 40% of global emissions, making decarbonizing them crucial to tackling climate change.

The programme will help cities like Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, and Bogotá develop low-emission public transport systems, renewable energy generation, sustainable waste management, new climate-smart buildings codes and climate risk planning.

bird's-eye view photography of city

Business and energy minister Lord Callanan said: ‘From our homes and workplaces to our towns and cities, the buildings we live in are a fundamental part of our daily lives, but also a significant source of global emissions.

‘That’s why at COP26 today we are calling on cities, regions, governments and businesses to seize the moment and set bold net-zero targets as we work together as a global community to end our contribution to climate change.’

Energy and climate change minister, Greg Hands, added: ‘By 2050 urban areas will be home to two thirds of the world population, with the speed and scale of urbanisation set to lock in high-carbon infrastructure and inequality if we do not act now.

‘The UK’s new programme will provide invaluable support to cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to help them grow sustainably, and make them resilient to climate risks, securing a greener future for generations to come.’

Steve Plaskitt, partner at MHA, says that the programme advances the construction industry’s global role in meeting net-zero emissions, but embracing retrofitting and repurposing must be a priority at home.

‘As an advanced economy, our country should encourage the best practices that have been developed in the UK construction industry to help other countries. We have a reputation for expertise in infrastructure development and project management and we should be exporting these skills and ideas. The UK’s funding of the Urban Climate Action Programme is a sensible way to do this. It provides a commercial boost to the construction sector and helps save the planet at the same time.

‘At home the priority for the country and construction industry should be the retrofitting and repurposing of existing buildings and infrastructure. Retrofitting is crucial to meet our net zero targets as about 18% of our CO2 emissions come from houses. Retrofitting gives a chance to improve the performance of a building through improved energy efficiency and more efficient heat control. We need to get moving on this as it is estimated we need to retrofit 1 million homes a year to meet our targets.’

‘Renovation and reuse of existing buildings, like empty high streets stores, is also critical. It saves half of the materials and embodied CO2 that would otherwise be used in the construction of a new building. Retrofitting and renovation should the most important priorities for UK construction and we have to hope we can harness the energy of COP26 to push our progress on this front even further.’

In related news, a new online platform will help cities accelerate their climate action plans. 

Photo by Tim Johnson


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