Led by WSP technical principal for social science Vivienne Ivory, the project mapped twenty-one studies of emissions reduction interventions across Australasia, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia that also had community benefits.
The neighbourhood to city-scale interventions included urban greening, creating denser urban form, encouraging people to use cycling and public transport, using smart construction technologies, low emissions energy, and introducing more efficient wastewater and stormwater systems.
Going through the twenty-one studies with a fine-tooth comb, Vivienne and colleagues found a range of community benefits to emissions reduction, including cost savings from reduced resource use, liveability improvements, better health outcomes, and improved air quality.
“With urban greening, for example, you can better manage stormwater. Green spaces store carbon and filter pollution from the air. Plus, they can bring positive effects to people’s mental and physical health,” says Vivienne.
Commissioned by the Building Research Association (BRANZ) as part of its Transition to a Zero-Carbon Built Environment Programme, the project’s outputs are aimed at local and central government decisionmakers wanting evidence on what interventions may (or may not) work.
A searchable map of the world pinpoints where each intervention and study took place, its method, snapshot of the benefits and impact on carbon emissions. The map can be filtered by scale (e.g., city or neighbourhood), intervention type, and community benefit.
Introducing emissions reduction interventions isn’t always a straightforward process and they’re hardly ever done in isolation. Getting people out of cars and onto buses and trains, for example, is usually done as part of more comprehensive changes to urban form.
Vivienne says the effectiveness of interventions can be hard to measure, and local context influences how well they can be replicated from place to place.
“Reducing urban greenhouse gas emissions poses big questions for communities. Big answers are needed. The project report and map we’ve produced are designed to help decisionmakers navigate a range of available evidence and make interventions relevant to their own situation.
“The project is about helping people work through their emissions reduction ideas when the evidence base for what they’re proposing isn’t clear cut. We have the filters on the map as a starting point - for those thinking about the community benefits they want to achieve, for example, or what scale they want to work to.”
A copy of the project report can be found here on the BRANZ website.