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Nottingham City Council: Carbon Neutral Agenda

In 2019, Nottingham set an ambitious target to become the first carbon neutral city in the UK by 2028. In keeping with Nottingham’s proud tradition of climate leadership, their Carbon Neutral Charter set out a vision for sustainable carbon neutrality on behalf of the council and the city’s Green Partnership.

The challenge

Nottingham City Council has responded to the climate and environmental crisis by setting the ambition to become carbon neutral city by 2028 as one of its key council policies to deliver. Along with key city partners and agencies, the council published a Carbon Neutral Charter in 2019 followed by a Carbon Neutral Action Plan to deliver this in 2020. The actions taken to date have already made a real difference to its citizens’ homes, businesses, transport and to the way the council operates. 

The city has met its 2020 energy strategy emissions target six years early, achieving a 26 per cent emissions reduction of it citywide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions between 2005and 2014. The 2020 figures, published in 2022, show an emissions reduction of 49 per cent since 2005 for the city and 57 per cent reduction per person.  

However, as the 2020 data shows, the city is still emitting over 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which is enough to drive the average car 3.8 billion miles! This means Nottingham must go even further and faster to reduce emissions and lower its carbon footprint in order to play its part in preventing a dangerously warmer world.  

The solution

Nottingham’s Carbon Neutral Action Plan builds on the Carbon Neutral Charter by setting out high-level objectives and activities in order to achieve a resilient and carbon neutral Nottingham by 2028.  

These are broken down into four main sections: 

  • Carbon Reduction Measures  
  • Carbon Removal  
  • Resilience and Adaption  
  • Ecology and Biodiversity  

This approach will bring multiple benefits to the citizens, businesses and organisations of Nottingham. The Carbon Neutral Charter sets out the principles, priorities and definitions of this approach, building on previous successes and state-of-the-art knowledge.  

The impact

The Carbon Neutral Charter recognised that tackling climate change needs to be done in a way that is fair and sustainable – improving and protecting our environment, economy and society. This sits at the heart of the city’s approach. Nottingham City Council plays a leading role in enabling, empowering and coordinating the city to tackle the challenge, but it cannot achieve this alone.  

The Carbon Neutral Action Plan is not intended to plot a fixed and definitive course to carbon neutrality. There will be further developments which cannot be accurately predicted. It is essential that there is continuing involvement in the development and implementation of actions from citizens, businesses, and other organisations in the city and further afield.  

How is the new approach being sustained?

Nottingham’s approach to sustainable carbon neutrality integrates carbon reduction with sustainability and an ambition to identify and realise multiple co-benefits. Co-benefits are deliberate or incidental positive outcomes across a range of other areas in addition to the central aim of an intervention. An example of a co-benefit is moving towards more active travel to tackle air quality also has benefits for health from exercise and mental wellbeing.  

To ensure the plan is robustly managed, governed and embedded in the council and the city, a dedicated implementation group has been formed from senior managers across the council who lead each theme/section of the plan supported a group of advisors from areas such a public health, finance and economic development. This group works collectively to deliver the actions and reports to an overall Board chaired by the council’s portfolio holder with specific responsibility for the environment and climate change.  

As the ambition is for the whole city to play its part, the action plan is managed on a wider basis through the Nottingham Green Partnership. This diverse group includes small and large local businesses e.g. Boots, other public sector organisations such our NHS trust (the fifth largest in the UK), both Universities (Nottingham and Nottingham Trent) and a host of green and sustainability related partners such as Sustrans.  

Lessons learned

If Nottingham City Council’s direct activities were carbon neutral now, it would account for less than a 1 per cent reduction in the city’s current CO2 emissions. Therefore, Carbon Neutral Nottingham 2028 can only hope to succeed if it is something the whole city can embrace, engage and be involved in.  

The contributions from citizens, communities, the business sector, and organisations of the city are critical. The council can facilitate, lead and set a good example but in terms of reducing carbon emissions it is a challenge in which the entire city needs to play its part. Therefore, partnership working, engagement, behaviour and cultural change are at the core of the agenda.  

The council are already seeing high levels of enthusiasm and support across the city, with it being evident that citizens are not asking why change is needed, but instead what they can do to help. This combined with improvements and advances in areas such as infrastructure and technology give further optimism that their ambition just might be achievable. Nottingham is known as the city of rebels and it is this spirit which will continue their drive to do things differently in the years to come.  


Carbon Neutral Policy Team, Nottingham City Council

[email protected]