There have been many efforts across the UK to cut C02 emissions. This has been tackled in numerous ways, from creating more spaces for nature to establishing more charging stations for electric cars, or simply recycling waste and strictly monitoring air quality. A group called Solar Centre surveyed 59 cities across the UK. They judged them on air quality, cleanliness, natural spaces, and electric vehicles. But which cities have most succeeded? Here is a list of the top 5 of the greenest cities in the UK according to this group. We will also cover what grander efforts are being made and how you can help contribute to lower emissions.
This medieval university city was named the UK’s greenest city in 2020 by the Solar Centre. Judging by a range of categories such as traffic congestion, air quality, energy consumption, and more, it received a 7.77 out of 10 on average. In fact, Durham managed to impressively cut its C02 emissions by half since 2009. The city council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and now has some of the best air quality of any UK city, scoring a perfect 10 by the Solar Centre. When visiting be sure to take in Durham Cathedral and see other sites such as Durham Castle and the Oriental Museum.
Swansea was second on the Solar Centre’s list of greenest cities. A coastal Welsh city, it has been striving for excellent air quality. According to Solar Centre, although air quality falls behind Durham they have excellent standards in other areas. These include preserving natural spaces and a reduction in ‘fly tipping’. ‘Fly Tipping’ is the illegal dumping of products and chemicals in natural areas. Swansea has also dedicated itself to an electric fleet of both public and private vehicles since 2019. Because of this, they have also set up more energy-efficient car parks that include charging stations. While visiting be sure to see Oystermouth Castle, Swansea Bay, and The National Waterfront Museum.
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Coming in third, Newcastle Upon Tyne also made impressive strives. With ambitious public works projects, such as solar paneling public buildings and enhancing its electric fleet, it scored 7.05 on the Solar Centre assessment. Newcastle is also heavily dedicated to its natural nature reserves. If visiting there are several to enjoy including Havannah Nature Reserve, Gosforth Nature Reserve, and Big Waters Nature Reserve. Each has extremely well-preserved natural habitats for the local wildlife and makes for excellent days out. Newcastle has further invested £16.3m to enhance walking and cycling infrastructure. This has resulted in almost 7000 cars off the road.
Like Durham, in 2019 Salford too declared a climate emergency. According to Solar Centre, the city’s main factors include a huge effort to deal with littering as well as investing in more charging ports for electric vehicles. By 2038 Salford plans to be completely carbon neutral. To achieve this, they are focusing on a vast range of factors. This includes maximising carbon storage in some areas, aiming to nurture wilderness areas with natural carbon absorption, and creating a lowland bog in Chat Moss. They also aim to retrofit many buildings to be far more energy-efficient as well as invest heavily in walkways and cycle routes. If you visit Salford be sure to take in their stunning Peel Park, a landscaped public park, as well as their media and performance centers like MediaCityUK and The Quays.
While in fifth place overall, the air quality in Worcester is the second highest. The air quality got an impressive 8 out of 10 on the Solar Centre’s assessment. They have also done extremely well since 2019 in improving recycling, tackling littering, and curbing Fly Tipping. Worcester is an excellent city in terms of lowering C02 emissions as well as energy consumption. In recent years Worcester council launched the Low Carbon Opportunities Programme, with a high focus on solar panel installation. The grant allows the council to pay up to 45% of the cost for solar panel installation up to £100,000. The main reason they are not higher on the list is they have invested far less into electric fleets and charging stations. Worcester is a beautiful medieval city with still-standing Tudor architecture. For outdoor activities be sure to see Worcester Woods Country Park.
The UK has set out a rigorous plan to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 – in comparison to 1990s levels. This would bring the UK two-thirds of the way to reaching zero net emissions by 2050. The goal will need to incorporate everything from re-thinking aviation and thinking to raise biodiversity across countries. There are also big steps being made to move away from coal and fossil fuels. Since 2010 the use of renewable electricity has increased fourfold, now making up 50% of the total generation.
What can drivers do?
There are several things car owners can do to help reduce their emissions. Although cars built after 1992 must meet Euro Emissions Standards, taking further steps is not only helpful but can also improve the performance of the car. Here are some steps you can take:
- Use better fuel: The petrol pumps labelled ‘premium’ or ‘ultra’ etc., contain cleaning agents that will improve fuel efficiency, maintain the engine, and lower emissions.
- Change the air filter regularly: Be sure to check the recommended intervals for your specific car. An overheated engine can cause deposits to build up and not only cause damage to your car but affect the exhaust.
- Watch that AC: Although we all like the perfect air temperature, simply turning it off a few miles before your destination will contribute to reducing the amount of work your engine has to do. This is ample time to let the cabin naturalize the air temperature too.
- Check your tyre pressure: If a car is driving on deflated wheels, then the engine is compensating for it. Simply checking the optimal pressure in line with your manufacturer can reduce C02 emissions.
- Change your oil: Oil is essential to a car running at its peak efficiency. If it is not changed regularly everything can not only become damaged, but the overheated engine will cause higher emissions.
- Don’t leave the car idle: This is self-explanatory but too many drivers are guilty of it. Unnecessary running of the engine when waiting for people or stepping out of the car should be a habit avoided at all costs.
- Be aware: As you may have guessed, it boils down to engine efficiency and awareness. If it’s a short trip, consider walking. Drive sensibly and don’t exert the engine. If you have roof racks or carriers, take them off when not needed to improve aerodynamics.