Sustainable Development Goals


Helping Greater Manchester to go carbon-neutral

A team from UCL is working with Greater Manchester on a new approach to help the area become carbon-neutral by 2038 – 12 years ahead of the UK – which could be implemented by other cities worldwide.

SDG case study G9.x pelican

7 October 2020

Cities are centres of infrastructure, industrialisation and innovation, but much of that activity is responsible for high levels of carbon emissions. Globally, 36% of carbon emissions globally come from buildings, and 2.5 billion people will have moved into urban areas by 2050.  

“While cities around the world are increasingly aware of their pivotal role in the climate emergency, they have not been able to implement effective systems-level clean growth strategies to increase economic growth while reducing emissions,” says Martha McPherson, (UCL Institute for Innovation & Public Purpose, IIPP). 

The IIPP’s Practice-based Learning in Cities for Climate Action (PELICAN) project is working closely with Greater Manchester on the development of a ‘mission-oriented innovation’ approach to the area’s target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2038. In 2018, Greater Manchester held its first Green Summit, which gathered opinions from residents and businesses on the area’s environmental priorities.

“While cities around the world are increasingly aware of their pivotal role in the climate emergency, they have not been able to implement strategies to increase economic growth while reducing emissions.”  

PELICAN worked with Greater Manchester to develop a roadmap and technical report to achieve the mission, and brought together sectors as diverse as manufacturing, digital and education, to work on carefully designed ‘mission projects’. The mission-making process moved towards the citizen-centred wording of achieving ‘carbon neutral living’ in the region by 2038. This mission was subsequently embedded in the region’s Local Industrial Strategy. 

“Our new approach moves away from ‘vertical’ sector-led investment, or ‘horizontal’ skills-led approaches,” explains Martha McPherson (UCL IIPP). “Instead, it aims for bold, measurable, bottom-up missions that set long-term policy direction, but which are achieved through cross-sectoral partnerships and experimentation.” 

Through the Greater Manchester initiative, the IIPP team hopes to better understand how mission-oriented innovation approaches can move cities towards carbon neutrality and city-level green economic growth.  

Its learnings will be shared with other cities, innovation systems and organisations interested in mission-oriented innovation around the world.  

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