Analysis: Is Manchester leading the race to become the first zero-carbon city?

Manchester has today unveiled one of the largest and most ambitious cycling and walking routes in the country, as part of their goals to become carbon neutral by 2038.

£13.4million is being invested in the scheme and ex-pro Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman is behind the plans, as he discussed his visions for this plan in 2017.

The route has been designed featuring Dutch-style segregated cycling and walking lanes and some of the most advanced junctions in the UK.

Boardman, who is Greater Manchester’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner, said: “We want to make cycling and walking the natural choice for short journeys, giving people the freedom not to have to drive.”

Councillor Stephen Adshead, Executive Member for Environment, Air Quality and Climate Change at Trafford Council, spoke of the council’s delight with the scheme.

“The provision of a better and improved cycle and walking route will give residents the opportunity to easily commute in and out of the borough whilst reducing their CO2 emissions.”

However, the plan for the cycle routes is just one part of a much larger scheme to combat climate change in the northern city.

The full zero-carbon plan, titled ‘Playing Our Full Part’, shows how the city will adopt a science-based ‘carbon budget’, capping total emissions at 15 million tonnes from 2018 – 2100.

Transport is a huge factor in reducing emissions and becoming carbon neutral: 70% of Metrolink trams already run on around 70% renewable energy, but there is a lot of progress to be made on other aspects of travel, such as taxis, buses and vans.

Former Environment Secretary and Chair of the Committee on Climate Change, Lord Deben, described how the plan gives him hope and that it could set an example for other cities around the world.

What is a zero-carbon city?

A city that is zero-carbon runs entirely on renewable energy resources, meaning it has no carbon footprint; therefore meaning it doesn’t harm the environment.

Are there any zero-carbon cities already?

There are only two prototype eco-cities: Dongtan in China, and Masdar City, United Arab Emirates. Both of these cities will be built from scratch – as this is commonly seen as easier than turning a pre-existing city carbon-free.

Construction on Dongtan has not even begun yet. Originally, the plan was to begin in 2006 but Chinese officials repeatedly push it back.

The completion date for Masdar City, a revolutionary proposition over a decade ago, has been pushed back to 2030 and developers doubt that it will ever truly be ‘zero-carbon’.

There are many schemes to reduce carbon emissions worldwide, many being in these desert-based countries, where solar panels are an obvious choice, but there are also admirable efforts in other countries to become carbon neutral, for example in Denmark.

Capital city Copenhagen has invested in infrastructure to encourage cycling, has introduced policies that set requirements for bike space per employee and has closed large areas of the city centre for motor vehicles. This is similar to Manchester’s new scheme.

It seems as though there are many cities pledging to make changes, with Manchester being one of the most recent to join in.

There is a consultation period until January 11 2019 specifically on the proposals for the cycling routes, and you can have your say at

The council has endorsed the full zero-carbon target, so the Manchester Climate Change Board will now develop a draft action plan by March 2019, after being finalised before 2020.

It’ll be interesting to see how the plans materialise, and how the city responds.

Let’s hope Manchester can meet its ambitious plans, but there could be other cities around the world to beat them to it.

Image courtesy of Visit Manchester via Twitter, with thanks.

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