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Low-carbon investment could ‘save £12.7tn in energy bills and save lives’

Low-carbon investment has more benefits than we might think, with a new study by the University of Leeds indicating massive boosts to job creation, energy savings and economic productivity

A huge reduction in transport-related deaths, tens of millions of new jobs and trillions saved in global energy are just some of the benefits that boosting low-carbon investment in city infrastructure can bring worldwide, a new study suggests.

The research team at the University of Leeds Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy analysed more than 700 studies to find that low-carbon urban projects deliver faster and bigger returns than conventional infrastructure.

It believes the biggest benefits are in projects such as public transport, energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy and solid waste management, according to the paper entitled The economic and social benefits of low-carbon cities - a systematic review of the evidence.

Professor Andy Gouldson, lead author of the research, said: “We already knew that low-carbon investment makes good economic sense.

“As the evidence mounted up, we were struck by the fact that the cities we want - cleaner, healthier, richer - are made possible through climate action.

“Whether high-quality public transport or segregated cycling lanes, energy-efficient buildings or better waste management, the dollars, lives and hours saved are impressive.”


Low carbon investment - by the numbers

The study found that by midway through the 21st century, low-carbon investment in  cities across the globe could generate energy savings worth more than $17 trillion (£12.7tn).

It reported direct investment towards clean public transport and vehicle efficiency could create up to 23 million jobs, cut time spent in traffic by 30%, and reduce transport-related deaths by more than 80%.

That’s in addition to 16 million jobs which would apparently be created by investment in new and existing energy efficient buildings, which would also improve home and working environments, lowering rates of illness and making employees up to 16% more productive.

Cities can be test bed for creativity and innovation

Nicholas Stern, co-chairman of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said: “This report clearly highlights how cities can be at the heart of the growth story of the future.

“If we are to create a dynamic and sustainable global economy, we will need productive cities where people can live, move and breathe.

“Cities should be attractive and dynamic places to live and work, where talented people can create and innovate.”

Sharan Burrow, general secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, added: “This research demonstrates that there are major opportunities to create new and better jobs through low-carbon investment in cities and make cities better places to live and work.

“Job creation through investment in the building, transport and waste sectors will not only revive economies but improve public health by lowering air pollution and improve accessibility for working people with more public transport.

“Cities can achieve a just transition to a climate-safe future with unions, business and government negotiating the transformation required with decent jobs.”