Building Net Zero Cities

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On the 29th of June, The Future Leap Network hosted a hybrid event in support of London Climate Action Week, focusing on the theme “building a sustainable, net zero London”. Before the event began, the attendees enjoyed some pre-sessional networking both online in breakout rooms, and in person over coffee and breakfast.

Katherine Piper, Director of Partnerships at Future Leap welcomed attendees online and in person from the FEN events space. Katherine highlighted the benefits of joining the network and ran through plans for the Festival of Sustainable Business starting in the Autumn of 2021. Speakers included:

· Rufus Ford Account Director, Vattenfall

· Simon Roberts OBE Chief Executive, Center for Sustainable Energy

· Sara Telahoun, Anthesis Group

The speakers shared their experiences implementing Net Zero city strategies including the installation of heat networks, the role of local authorities in reducing emissions and the importance of storytelling.

Rufus Ford Account Director, Vattenfall

Rufus started the event by highlighting the importance of heat decarbonisation in cities in order to meet Net Zero commitments; we are now within one gas boilers average life span to meet targets in the sixth carbon budget. Heat pumps and networks are proven technologies in heat decarbonisation, the challenge is in deploying a country wide upgrade. Rufus shared what can be done to expedite this process; including the use of city wide networks, the implementation of statutory rights for heat network customers and the development of supply chains to ensure heat networks work at large scales.

Simon Roberts OBE, Center for Sustainable Energy

Simon emphasised the importance of getting the right balance between creating detailed plans and “getting on with it”, accepting that a city-wide Net Zero transition is too complex to plan in full detail. To characterise this Simon used a musical analogy that organising a whole city is a symphony that cannot be written, and the transition should be more like jazz than Mozart. Story telling was emphasised as an important tool in inspiring and mobilising different stakeholders in the city, the Bristol Green Doors project a wonderful example of how powerful people’s stories can be.

Sara Telahoun, Anthesis Group

Sara shared her experience having worked with numerous local authorities around the UK by outlining a cyclical climate action journey: Analytics – Solution – Implementation. Engagement with stakeholders and setting clearly defined roles were highlighted as important factors in successful implementation of climate reduction actions. Sara also discussed the importance of timing in carbon removal considering its cumulative nature, and that a reduction of carbon now is worth more than the same carbon reduction in several years’ time. Concluding the presentation, Sara emphasised that cities are now challenged by ‘how’ rather than ‘what’ and shared ideas to facilitate action such as Net Zero business pledges and online collaboration hubs.


Katherine closed the event after another opportunity for networking, thanking all the speakers and attendees, which without our events calendar would not be possible.

Event Notes by Kelly-ann Luckhurst, MSc Environmental Consultancy, University of the West of England.

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