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Bristol Increases Its Ambition And Aims To Be Carbon Neutral By 2050



This year’s European Green Capital – Bristol, UK – has pledged to accelerate its already ambitious targets and pursue carbon neutrality by 2050. Mayor George Ferguson made the commitment alongside local political group leaders following the city’s role co-hosting the Cities and Regions Pavilion at the COP21 climate talks in Paris.

Bristol has so far reduced carbon emissions per person by 24% since 2005 and under its most recent climate strategy the mayor committed to future CO2 reductions of 40% by 2020, 50% by 2025, 60% by 2035 and 80% by 2050. Now, inspired by other cities and what is required to deliver the agreement at COP21 he now seeks to update the target to 100% by 2050.

Bristol is a member of the Compact of Mayors, launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Michael R. Bloomberg. It is the world’s largest global collective effort to date by cities to tackle climate change, proactively prepare for its impacts, and regularly track and feedback on progress. Bristol is also a signatory to several climate pledges, including two issued during COP21 – the Paris City Hall Declaration and the ‘Under2’ Memorandum of Understanding.

George Ferguson, Mayor of Bristol said: “Cities and regions played a major role at COP21, marking the first time they’ve been included at the event. In recent years whilst nations have talked, cities and regions have acted. We pledged to do all we can to pursue a future where unavoidable climate temperature increases are limited to no more than two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels. We made this pledge at a time when the outcome of COP was unclear, but now the world’s nations have reached their historic agreement there’s an even better chance of success.

“To succeed requires greater ambition, investment and dedication across all sectors. Bristol is once again taking a lead amongst UK cities. We are saying we shall take on board what has been agreed at COP21, we shall accelerate our ambition and work with partners at home, abroad and across any and all sectors to try and achieve our goals.

“When it comes to climate change we are a politically united city. Also our Green Capital Partnership includes over 850 member organisations, a key element of the city’s success as European Green Capital this year, and crucial to the success of our new carbon zero target date of 2050. Working with them, with our dedicated Energy and Futures services, with our international networks and many others, I am sure we can rise to the challenge.”

Bristol City Council itself is working towards a new 50% reduction target for its own emissions by 2020 after meeting its 40% goal five years early. It has also made large strides in renewable energy. In a few years, it is forecast to produce 1GW of electricity from solar panels. Since 2005, Bristol has reduced energy use by 18%.

Cllr Helen Holland, Leader of the Labour group on Bristol City Council said: “It was a Labour-led Council that first applied to Europe for our city to be European Green Capital, so I am delighted to take part in this pledge to commit Bristol to become a Carbon Free City by 2050. This ambitious commitment will have to be matched by bold actions, but I am sure that everyone – residents, community organisations, business – will all play their part in helping Bristol meet that challenge, joining worldwide efforts to rescue our planet.”

Cllr Mark Weston, Leader of the Conservative group on Bristol City Council said: “My group is supportive of efforts to move to a lower carbon economy as we end energy generation from high carbon fuels such as coal. We need a diverse energy mix including both renewables and nuclear generation. We would urge city planners to look carefully at how we can both reduce energy usage and improve micro generation in the future as we rise to meet the challenges ahead.”

Cllr Ani Stafford-Townsend, Leader of the Green group on Bristol City Council said: “Greens have been campaigning for decades on carbon reduction to avoid devastating climate change. In 2006 Cllr Charlie Bolton used his first motion as councillor to call for more ambitious carbon reduction targets. We welcome the firm commitment for Bristol to lead the way and become carbon neutral by 2050. We have the technology and vision to tackle the greatest challenge of our generation, all we need now is the political will from across the board to make zero carbon Bristol a reality.”

Cllr Gary Hopkins, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on Bristol City Council said: “Bristol has for many years been leading the way and should sign up to ambitious targets. Declarations though must be matched by actions. The Liberal Democrats would look to get to grips with our public transport by investing in urban rail and bus services and ensuring the highest environmental standards, we would prioritise sorting out waste and importantly, would prioritise investment into the hydrogen economy.”


Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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