Exeter City Futures is holding a series of workshops this autumn with policy makers across the city. There is work to be done for Exeter to reach carbon neutrality – what needs to happen now?

In 2020, the Exeter City Futures report “Towards a Carbon-Neutral Exeter”, provided the City with a clear, detailed and compelling roadmap to carbon neutrality. This followed several years of engagement with residents, business and local communities.

The good news is, that since the 1990s greenhouse gas emissions in Exeter have continued on a downward trend. However, most of this has come from changes outside of the city, mainly through the use of renewable energy in the national power grid. The roadmap identified 4 major themes and 12 goals as a framework to help focus attention and activity to aid the city in meeting the challenges ahead.

Karime Hassan, Interim Managing Director of Exeter City Futures explained: “We are taking the time to look at what needs to be done now to hit 2030 targets for Exeter. By getting together leaders in transport, energy and city design we are reinvigorating progress. Exeter City Futures is already a collaboration of large like-minded institutions in the city, and we are bringing in further expertise and representation, inviting everyone to the table to get concrete plans in place. We ultimately need to help businesses and individuals to reduce energy use and switch to more renewable sources of power.”

The workshops this Autumn will engage local policy makers and system leaders. These joint discussions on the key topics will assess to what extent they share strategies towards Net Zero and identify priorities for shared action. The aim is to create the right conditions for systemic change in the city.

The targets that city leaders are facing have been mapped out. For example, if the city is to reach the 2030 net zero target, over 1,200 solar panels need to be installed on buildings in Exeter in each year to 2030. Given that in 2020, 360 solar panels were installed, there will need to be a six-fold increase in the long run average installation rate. Exeter also needs to insulate the lofts of 25,400 homes by 2030, or 2,800 homes each year every year to 2030, as well as improving the energy efficiency of 260 non-domestic buildings every year to 2030 and switching 270 buildings every year to low carbon heating.

It’s not just buildings and power; transport is responsible for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the city. To achieve the 2030 target would mean reducing driving in Exeter by 10 million kilometres each year, every year to 2030. There would have to be an exponential growth in electric vehicles ownership and the installation of an additional 81 charging points in every year to 2030. More people would need to get out of their cars and on their bikes to increase cycling rates by 3.7 million kilometres annually (equivalent to 70% of the current total level), with matching increases in walking.

Karime and Exeter City Futures know that these are huge targets, but believe the key to achieving them lies in working together. Karime Hassan: “The challenges faced by the City to achieve its ambitions are daunting – but there is huge potential, through greater collaboration and innovation, to make significant in-roads into decarbonisation by concentrating our efforts in areas where we can have the most impact.”

The Exeter City Futures workshops will allow invited participants to find out more about the issues and to discuss their concerns and views. Some projects they are discussing are: district heating networks, strategies for electric vehicle charging, the opportunities of hydrogen, the role of community projects in net zero, and reviewing Exeter’s transport strategy. The outcomes of the workshops will be collated and turned into formal proposals for action to be presented to the Exeter City Futures board which includes both Exeter City Council and Devon County Council, as well as the University of Exeter, Exeter College and the Royal Devon NHS Trust. See exetercityfutures.com later in the year for outcomes of these workshops.