I’m delighted to welcome Radix Big Tent to the city of Bristol this weekend. I want as many people as possible to attend this festival of ideas where subjects debated will include inclusive growth, the impacts of new media and culture and better public services.
It is the first time Big Tent has been held in a core city and what better place than Bristol with its reputation for radical thought doing things differently? Big Tent is a festival like no other, where audiences are expected to challenge and national politicians can escape the Westminster bubble to hear what people actually think about some of the UK’s biggest policy challenges.
A big challenge for Bristol and the rest of the UK’s core cities is net zero. Cities are at the heart of this agenda. They are where more and more people live – the core cities are home to 20 million people – and where the innovation exists through universities and businesses to bring new solutions to some of our toughest challenges.
Cities are leading the way when it comes to climate, where local authorities understand the contexts in which they’re operating and are able to be more agile and efficient than national government, particularly around issues like insulation and heat pumps.
But decarbonising our growing cities will come at a huge cost. To build the green infrastructure we need, for example electric, vehicle charging points or district heat networks, will cost billions, far beyond the capacity of either the local or national state.
That is why Core Cities UK is sponsoring a session at Big Tent with national and local leaders on who should pay the final bill for this and why we cannot rely on outdated models of grant funding or private sector largesse.
The UK Cities Climate Investment Commission (UKCCIC) of which Core Cities UK is a founder member, brings a different approach to this question. It looks at ways we can bring together private and public finance to help meet costs that we expect to rise to over £200bn. It will map out a pipeline of possible projects, for example large scale battery or solar projects or improved public transport or cycle networks, that have private investment potential.
With investment comes risk, so we have developed a concept of blended finance to drive investment across five different areas in cities. Investment from the smaller scale projects will then be re-invested into bigger, more risky ones.
The UKCCIC uses the concept of place as a starting point. There is a tendency among policy-makers to think about tackling climate change in technological silos. The commission puts forward a new approach – that we need to join our interventions up at the level of place to make sure they work together so that no neighbourhood is left behind.
For example, a residential street could be the subject of a number of projects, all designed to cut its carbon emissions, from roof cladding to air source heat pumps. It will minimise disruption and reduce cost if we can do all of these at a local level at around the same time. If we can scale this up, making an attractive proposition for investors, then we may even remove the need for households to pay up front, a key barrier to action at the moment.
The UKCCIC model has been praised internationally as a refreshingly different take on an issue all cities are grappling with. We think it has tremendous potential and colleagues from the commission are looking forward to sharing it with the audience at Radix Big Tent 2022 in Queen Square.
The programme can be found here at https://bigtent.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/220407-Festival-Programme-timetabled-v4-public.pdf
Tickets for the festival are available here https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/radix-big-tent/radix-big-tent-ideas-festival-bristol-2022/e-xevdkx and are priced at £15 (£10 conc, U18 free); 2 for 1 tickets available.