Low Carbon Liverpool Event Report: How do we build a Successful, Sustainable and Green European City?

Last week Low Carbon Liverpool held our latest seminar, focusing on how Liverpool should continue to progress its burgeoning environmental agenda.

Councillor Tim Moore opened proceedings with an update on council proceedings, including the recent announcement of a Mayoral Commission on sustainability in Liverpool by Mayor Joe Anderson.  He also spoke about the importance of youth involvement in this agenda, highlighting the significance that several student and youth groups were present at the event, including members of the School’s Parliament and Geography’s own Dan Wilberforce and Jonathon Clarke.
Following this, and after a short introduction into the Low Carbon Liverpool project from Peter North, I spoke about the recent environmental audit that has been taking place.  Taking the form of a ‘dummy bid’ for European Green Capital, the audit covered 12 key areas of Liverpool’s environmental performance including climate change, transport, green space, waste management and energy performance.  Overall, the results paints a positive picture, with Liverpool’s performance sitting at the cusp of an average-excellent performance, when considered against past Green Capital winners.  These results were supported by excellent data covering Liverpool’s green/natural spaces, as well as the quality of the river Mersey and its cleanup over the last two decades.  However, several areas were flagged as under-performing.  They included cycle lanes, water metering, hybrid cars and recycling rates.  Moving forward, the key recommendations to stem from the audit were that the city now makes strides to improve the underperforming areas, while seeking to advance performance across all other areas.
After the interim audit results were presented, we heard from several speakers, talking about the platform for change in Liverpool.  Stuart Donaldson from the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority spoke about their plans to improve waste management in Merseyside, Les Bellmon spoke about the Eldonians’ strategy for renewable and sustainable power production in North Liverpool and Paul Nolan talked about the excellent work being undertaken by the Mersey Forest across the Liverpool City Region.

Then we heard from youth representatives, representing the University of Liverpool and Liverpool School’s Parliament.  They spoke passionately about the need to drive forward future action today and the important role that this agenda plays in making Liverpool an attractive place to live and work.
In the final session, the event broke into roundtable discussions on the audit results, and what Liverpool’s next priorities should be.  In particular, the groups suggested that the Mayoral Commission now focus on:
– Increasing recycling levels
– Improving the quality of the cycling environment (and improving attitudes towards cycling)
– Seizing the opportunities to promote a green economy.  In particular this should focus on eco-innovation which can underpin improvements in many other areas.
– Transport:  Moving across the city should become easier

As well as this, the audience suggested that this can be achieved through better communication from the council, as well as applying its existing strategies more effectively.


Now that it has a good evidence base in place, the city now seems keen to advance this agenda.  We remain positive that Liverpool is making some excellent steps in the right direction.  Now, the ball is very much in Liverpool’s court.

For more info, see: lowcarbonliverpool.com

Copies of the slide presentations are available here



Low Carbon Liverpool: The Role of the Business Community in a Low Carbon Future

Discussion meeting

By Alex Nurse

Last Week (7th February), Low Carbon Liverpool hosted a seminar focusing on the business community and how it can engage with low carbon.
Held at Liverpool Community College’s Vauxhall campus, and chaired by our own Dr Peter North, we heard from Chris Benson (Benson Signs), Mike Bakewell (CT Investment Partners) and Justin Smith (Assistant Principal at the Community College).
Chris Benson spoke passionately about his own experiences greening his own business over the last twelve years, saying that a series of smaller steps can be more effective than trying to modify everything at once.  He argued that the cumulative effect has left his business far more efficient without the outlay of funding everything in one go.
Mike Bakewell then spoke about the business models that are emerging to help support small scale initiatives, and the importance of getting people to understand what is available to them.
Then, audience members engaged with the panel on the importance of sharing best practice case studies, particularly in the printed media, to show what can be achieved and the benefits to be had, as well as making the various funding and support structures well known.

The morning concluded with Justin Smith showing interested parties around the College’s Environmental Technology Centre, which provides training to install the latest in environmentally efficient technologies such as Solar Panels, Rainwater Catchment and Under-floor Heating.

The key take-home messages from the morning were twofold:

  • Firstly, that there is no substitute for enthusiasm in these matters. Being keen and engaged in running a business in the most efficient way possible can deliver benefits on a number of fronts, particularly to your operating costs.
  • Secondly, if you are interested, don’t shy away from a piecemeal approach. By building up your resilience over a number of years, across a number of individual projects you can end up with a business/organisation that is deeply low carbon without having to undergo fundamental, overnight change.

Ultimately, whole day brings to mind a proverb: “Those who say it can’t be done are often interrupted by those who are doing it”. Many of the people we heard from today exemplify this outlook.

For more info see: lowcarbonliverpool.com

Valuable waterside real estate …

Post by Dr Pete North

The Liverpool Daily Post recently reported on the visit to Liverpool of what it billed as a world-leading urban design expert.   Canadian Professor Trevor Boddy argued that Liverpool has real estate “most cities would die for” in the form of prime land on the waterfront which would be a major draw for the Chinese market if it were developed into residential properties. Professor Boddy argued: “Waterside real estate, I don’t think in global terms you (Liverpool) realise how valuable that is, especially to Asian markets. No-one can compete with it.”

“Liverpool Waters” – Proposed plans for the redevelopment of the shoreline of the north of the city

I was thinking about this in the light of my Low Carbon Liverpool project, which is thinking about whether Liverpool has the policies in place to combine prosperity and social inclusion with what we need to do to avoid dangerous climate change – reducing emissions.  Despite my doubts about the possibility or desirability of Liverpool becoming ‘Shanghai on Mersey’ (look at the picture of Pudong below) my immediate thought was the incompatibility with reducing emissions with marketing proposed developments such as Liverpool Waters as pieds a tierre to the East Asian market.  Is this the best we can make of our world heritage waterfront?

Myself and colleagues in Pudong, Shanghai

Then this weekend I made a visit back to my old stamping ground, the Elephant and Castle, London.  Ten years ago I wrote a couple of papers recounting the experience of what was actually a creditable attempt to involve residents of a prime piece of real estate, the Elephant and Castle in large-scale regeneration plans focused on the redevelopment of a large local authority estate and the reconfiguring of a major transport interchange.  Using government SRB monies, Southwark Council formed a development board to oversee the regeneration which included local residents as directors. A significant amount of social housing was included in the plans: working people would still be able to live in the heart of a world city.  What was a laudable attempt at community engagement basically floundered due to the reluctance of officers to let go, to really involve the community in the plans – the gap between rhetoric and realty was too great, and the proposed developer pulled out.

10 years later a new development is in place, and the estate, the Heygate, is now empty and boarded up. A few hardy tenants and squatters are hanging on, with the district heating system switched off: it seems only a matter of time before they give up an unequal battle.  Nonetheless, many local residents and activists formed a group called Southwark Notes which continues to develop community-based visions for the Elephant.  Supported by the RGS’s Urban Geography Research Group and the academic journal Antipode they convened a conference on gentrification in South London. 

The Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, London

I attended, and the trip enabled me to revisit the estates on which I expended a large amount of shoe leather ten years ago. Ideas there were aplenty, but this time there was no way for residents to influence the regeneration from the inside as there had been ten years ago. All there was were sporadic opportunities to be consulted on agendas set by the powerful, which those at the conference condemned as inadequate.

The Elephant of the future would not be a place for current residents. No social housing was now proposed.  Rather, receipts from the development of prime inner city and waterfront real estates would be recycled into council housing and leisure facilities away from the river, where you would get more “bang for your buck”.

Looking at a number of newspaper cuttings in the groups archive, the difference between ten years ago and now became clear, and Professor Boddy’s views began to make some sense in the Liverpool context.  Would it make more sense to market Liverpool Waters to international elites, and spend the receipts on the housing, leisure centres, libraries, developing job and business opportunities and the like that North Liverpool needs? Given the scale of the spending cuts that local authorities can expect over coming years, might this be an example of Liverpool acting as what David Harvey calls a ‘entrepreneurial city’?  Or should we be calling for more socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable approaches to the regeneration that North Liverpool so badly needs?

North, P. (2003). Communities at the heart? Community action and urban policy in the UK. In Urban renaissance? New Labour, community and urban policy. Edited by R. Imrie and M. Raco. Bristol, The Policy Press: 121-138.

DeFilippis, J. and P. North (2004). The Emancipatory Community? Place, Politics and Collective Action in Cities. In The Emancipatory City? Paradoxes and Possibilities. Edited by L. Lees. London, Sage: 72-88.

50 PhDs – almost there!

Post by Prof. Andy Plater

As intricate processes go, the Centre for Global EcoInnovation isn’t far off achieving its first goal of 50 PhDs at the Universities of Liverpool and Lancaster.  We’re building a new style of PhD – one where the research need is driven by regional small businesses and where the academic community can help deliver research-led products and services that aim to reduce carbon emissions and waste, and promote sustainable energy and resource use. Seven of these will be supervised in Geography, Civic Design and Ecology at Liverpool.  I really can’t wait for them to start on the 1st October – it’ll be a massive achievement.  Sorry to all the businesses and academics who were unsuccessful this time.  I hope we’ll at least be able to progress some important research through work-based dissertations or Masters projects.