The Azimuth Project
Birmingham (UK) (Rev #8, changes)

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Birmingham is the UK’s second city with population of 1.3m and is the largest local authority in Europe.


In 2009 Birmingham emitted around 5.8MtC02e (equivalent to millions of tonnes of C02) - 1% of total UK emissions.

Birmingham has the highest domestic emissions and the second highest transport emissions (after Leeds) in the UK.

This is said to be in line with Birmingham’s size.

CO2 emissions per capita were 5.5tonnes, below the UK average and in-line with other major cities.


A 2013 Green Paper on Birmingham’s European and International Strategy identified an “enhanced city infrastructure through green growth and low carbon transition, digital growth and inclusion and smart and integrated mobility as key priorities”.

The city council established a panel, theBirmingham Green Commission, consisting of academics, business people and voluntary sector representatives to report on a comprehensive environmental strategy for the local authority area.

It concluded that:

Approximately two-thirds of the city’s target could be met through national policy, regulation, and technological improvements, principally through the decarbonisation of electrical power.

While the Commission recognises the important contribution of central government policies, in the absence of a concrete near-term timetable for electricity sector decarbonisation, it raises concerns that delays in greening the grid may make Birmingham’s targets unachievable by 2027 (24).

If, in 2016, a formalised decarbonisation target is projected to deliver grid intensity higher than 100gCO2/kWh, then Birmingham will have to decide whether to:

  • maintain its CO2 reduction target by committing additional local investment and effort to decarbonise the electricity supply within Birmingham and/or reduce electricity demand
  • reduce Birmingham’s ambitions in line with updated national policy/projections.

the City’s plans for CO2 emissions reduction measurement does not seek to cover embedded/embodied carbon, which is the sum of all the energy required to produce goods or services in the city. Therefore, whilst the focus of Birmingham’s efforts will be on our territorial carbon emissions, it is important that we do not neglect our responsibility in facilitating reductions in embedded emissions across the city’s supply chain.

By 2012 Birmingham’s emissions had reduced by 18.4% against a 1990 baseline.


  • Birmingham Carbon Roadmap
  • City Energy Plan
  • BES energy efficiency programm (deliver the Green Deal)
  • smart energy : Energy Technologies Institute
  • mobility action plan : walking and cycling, electrification of vehicles
  • capture the value of resources including waste for energy
  • Birmingham and Solihull collective energy
  • Scrutiny review of waste to resources and its recommendations on energy.

Cost-benefit analysis

The Stern Review’s comprehensive assessment of climate change impacts gave a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of not acting. The overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year, now and forever. In contrast, the costs of action – reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change – can be limited to around 1% of global GDP each year (3).

Major international analyses have also concluded that a green economy grows faster over time than one which ignores the benefits of green innovation (4). Quantitative modelling for the green economy demonstrates that greening can not only generate increases in natural capital, but also produce a higher rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth.

For example we know from initial work through our Birmingham Energy Savers programme and work undertaken in the initial stages of analysing the city’s energy balance (e.g. Birmingham’s overall energy bill is approximately £2billion per annum), that:

  • for every home retrofitted this will provide an average £300 per year GVA uplift. Thus if we deliver 50,000 homes in the next 10 years (200,000 are substandard) that will deliver a £15 million GVA per annum and this does not

include the jobs created in delivering the works or any new business attracted (5).

  • If we could reduce Birmingham’s business energy costs (approx £500 million per annum) and on average see a 20% saving this could add additional £100 million to GVA – and of course create jobs in installing smart systems (6,7).

3 Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change - Summary of Conclusions

Postive actions in hand

  • Work to establish a robust planning framework (the Birmingham Development Plan9) that prioritises sustainable development is already underway:

  • The nationally acclaimed Birmingham Energy Savers programme including the Green Deal initiative is the largest domestic retrofit programme in the UK;

  • District heating schemes are already well established in the city centre through Birmingham District Energy Company, providing low carbon heat, saving money, and reducing CO2 emissions;

  • Our universities produce world class research, for example, on bio-energy, hydrogen materials and supply chains, and future power systems;

  • The Midland Metro Birmingham City Centre Extension will be completed by 2015 with a boost in regional GVA by around £50 million and employment by over 1,300 jobs by 202610, whilst enhancing mobility across the city centre;

  • The arrival of High Speed 2 in Birmingham provides a unique transformational opportunity, linked to the city’s ambitions set down in the draft policies of Your Green City and the Green Living Spaces Plan;

  • A Green Bridge programme to identify SME supply chains, green innovation and market opportunities is underway; and

  • The work of the city’s Employment Action Team, maximising the skills and green job opportunities from the Birmingham Energy Savers project.

Immediate action 2013-2017 (carbon budget 2 period)

• Accelerating change to how we heat and power the city • Creating local decarbonised energy generation, but ensuring that the impact on overall environmental quality including air quality is neutral • Creating more sustainable opportunities on how we travel and get around Birmingham • Widening our current programme to improve the energy efficiency of buildings in Birmingham.

See the analysis undertaken in Technical Paper 2 “Report on the Impact of national policy and programmes on Birmingham’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to 2027”

Case Studies

Tyseley environmental enterprise district (TEED)

The local incinerator is called the ‘Energy Recovery Facility’. It converts 350,000 tonnes pa. of Birmingham municipal waste to electricity for 41,000 homes.

Tyseley has been designated an Environmental Enterprise District. This aims to promote the creation of new environmental business parks at Tyseley Wharf and Energy Way, fostering environmental technologies symbiosis

through work with academic institutions and exploiting opportunities from the Energy Recovery Facility.

Redevelopment and refurbishment of 100,000 sq.m. of new floorspace, creating 1,500 jobs.

The National Industrial Symbiosis Programme

International Synergies

‘Groundbreaking study’ on resource efficiency for TEED and Birmingham.

An industrial and manufacturing scheme to swap ‘waste’ materials that could be used profitably by others.

NISP has helped create and safeguard 3,125 West Midlands jobs, generating £330m in sales and saving £195m in costs in the region since its formation in 2005.


Birmingham district energy - heating, cooling and powering the city

The award-winning Birmingham District Energy Scheme, owned and operated by Cofely District Energy in partnership with BCC as the Birmingham District Energy Company Ltd (BDEC).

CCHP for a number of public and private buildings.

3 gas CHP schemes in the city centre:

Measuring performance

the Commission recommends that an urgent review of existing reference frameworks should be undertaken alongside the work in progressing the Green Vision.

This should for example include taking advantage of the work of the C40 Group27, the European Reference Framework for Sustainable Cities28 and also learning from best practice through ICLEI29 and the Business Council for Sustainable Development30. As Birmingham is a signatory to the European Covenant of Mayors (31), then such reporting is essential. This will also need to link to the existing Annual Monitoring Report32 undertaken for the current Local Development Framework and Local Development Scheme, but with a clearer web-based and accessible monitoring framework.

With an effective reporting mechanism in place this will significantly improve the evaluation of delivery mechanisms over time.