Building a Better Plan for a Net-Zero Transition

Across the globe, local and city governments are declaring climate emergencies and planning a transition to net-zero. This can be a frustrating and difficult task. Getting reliable data on carbon emissions is complicated, local governments are overwhelmed with technological solutions, and it is hard to plot a route to the end goal.

Connected Places Catapult launched the Net-Zero Framework project to develop ways to bring together all the essential information, promote the conversation, create the story, and develop a plan for net-zero.

Since starting the project, we have conducted desk research and interviewed and run workshops with local authorities. They told us the barriers they faced in turning a political commitment to net-zero into a practical plan, and the capabilities a tool needed to be useful. Contributors showed us where a new tool could be applied, and what their requirements are:

  • Local government needs a powerful story about the transition plan to back up and support the political commitment. Something they can use to communicate with stakeholders, including local communities, businesses, and elected representatives. Stories they can use to break down silos and get political buy-in.
  • The framework should ensure the right strategic questions get asked at the start of the journey, helping people to test their assumptions and collect and assess the right data. It should build the evidence base and make the case for investing in climate action, demonstrating the return on investment.
  • The tool must be user friendly. All the data and methods should be open, transparent, and traceable. The strengths and limitations should be clear so the outputs can be trusted. The framework cannot be a black box.
  • A transition to net-zero is not just about greenhouse gas emissions. There are other benefits that flow from restructuring a local economy. These co-benefits include health and well-being, water quality and security, job creation and equity. Many of these benefits are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, another priority for local government. The framework should help to identify and value these co-benefits and show how they are linked to net-zero transition actions. This will strengthen the evidence base and the business case.
  • Many existing approaches to net-zero plans do not include the so-called Scope 3 emissions. All the indirect emissions that occur upstream and downstream of operations, from raw materials and purchased goods and services, to end-of-life disposal. Any real transition plan must include indirect emissions to avoid accidentally making them somebody else’s problem. We must make sure the framework includes Scope 3 effects.
  • Evidence from other, similar communities helps local government develop realistic transition plans. So case studies, solutions, stories and approaches used elsewhere are valuable. Comparison with other places helps decision making and should be part of the framework.
  • The framework needs to help communities to develop options, but also to prioritise them. Which are short-term actions and which long-term? How difficult are they to implement? What are the risks and unintended consequences? And how should actions be sequenced to get the biggest impact for the lowest cost?
  • People do not expect to do everything in a single tool. Many other tools handle specific aspects of planning, financing and delivery of projects. The framework should signpost to other tools and resources.

In the next phase of the Net-Zero Framework, the partnership will develop and test prototypes based on what we have learned so far. Look out for further updates as the project develops.

Are you interested in sharing your insights on Net-Zero? If you’d like to let us know about some of the projects you’re working on in this space, please email