New York City skyline; New York City skyline;

Net zero cities

Turning net zero ambitions into impact

Turning net zero ambitions into impact

Cities great and small are on the frontline of climate change. Increasingly impacted by climate hazards, they also have the ambition to match the scale and urgency of the challenge, using their net zero journeys to tackle wider challenges such as pandemic recovery, the rising cost-of-living and wealth inequality.

Cities have shown the ambition to match the scale of the net zero challenge – decarbonising at scale can lead to healthier, more equitable places whilst also strengthening the built and natural systems on which we all depend. ” Terri Wills Terri Wills UKIMEA Urban Strategy Leader, Cities Planning and Design

At Arup, we partner with city leaders and urban collaborators to turn ambitions into climate impact and delivery. We bring a wealth of knowledge from partnerships with the most globally influential bodies to create a step-change in climate action, including 100 Resilient Cities, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, World Green Building Council and partnering with C40 Cities for over ten years.

Net zero challenges and opportunities across the city

The global built environment is the source of more than a third of total greenhouse gas emissions. We see the planning and design process as a way to engage across urban systems, creating the right blend of infrastructure with low operational and embodied carbon use fit for the future. We bring net zero expertise to understand challenges and uncover opportunities across the many functions of a city.

We look through the lens of retrofit and new build, reducing energy bills and creating healthier, more comfortable buildings for people, assessing whole life carbon on any project and enabling a circular approach.

Through the lens of zero emission travel we help transport systems make the switch to renewable energy, integrating modes and prioritising active travel to tempt people away from private cars - delivering more sustainable transport. Through the energy lens, we support cities of every kind to create smarter and more resilient grids, able to meet growing demand for clean energy. Circular economy practices are well suited to benefit cities, and we facilitate both reuse of construction materials and the sharing economy to reduce consumption-based emissions.

We also recognise nature as a partner in addressing and mitigating climate impacts, and bring a wealth of applied knowledge on city resilience to help city leaders measure, manage and plan climate action at city scale, protecting the most vulnerable from climate hazards.

All of these are big structural changes related to net zero, and increasingly we help cities to anticipate economic shifts, social and technological changes in order to mitigate negative impacts and enable a just transition wherever possible.

How we can help

City wide climate action planning

We produce your net zero roadmap, defining the changes that will be required across the city’s assets and operations in order to meet your goals and deadline. We bring expertise from a decade-long partnership with C40 Cities, carrying out vital research to help cities around the world measure, manage, and plan climate actions, empowering city leaders to make vital decisions.

Learn more about our climate strategy and planning services

Net zero policy and programmes

We design policies and programmes to implement carbon emissions reductions at scale across cities, including for energy, transport and buildings. This is advisory work backed with deep technical insights.

Given the scale of existing buildings in our cities, will need to retrofit many existing buildings and infrastructure to lower energy use. We’re analysing global building policies for decarbonisation and work with cities to introduce a range of retrofit options at different scales, including across domestic and commercial buildings.

Learn more about our planning policy expertise

Masterplanning net zero neighbourhoods

We work with our clients to set a clear vision and step up climate action ambition, whether designing a street, in a neighbourhood, or a district scale regeneration project. Our masterplanning proposals are built on our insight into the way places can influence the quality of our lives, and how we live, work and play impacts carbon consumption. We draw together technical understanding of interconnected systems such as transport, energy, waste and the natural environment. We work with the existing fabric of places, creating resilience to future challenges and focusing on the wellbeing of communities.

Find out more about our masterplanning expertise

Low carbon infrastructure planning

Whether planning a new station, airport or regional energy system, a place-based approach to low carbon infrastructure can deliver more affordable, sustainable and accessible energy to support decarbonisation. We also draw on data collected in our Zero tool, analysing whole life carbon from almost 1,000 global projects to reduce carbon over the build and operation of any new infrastructure. We take a people-centred approach, empowering local actors to gain consensus and enable immediate steps to be taken.

We are working with cities, regions, and utilities as they develop more complex grids, implement battery storage to facilitate greater reliance on renewables, and manage demand using real-time data.

Learn more about our Zero tool

City data modelling

Our City Modelling Lab creates large scale simulation models, offering unprecedented insight into how people’s behaviour and choices produce complex behaviour and outcomes for our clients. Our simulations can be built at city or regional level, exploring complex decarbonisation questions such as EVs and vehicle fleets, transport modal shift, energy systems and equity.

Unlike traditional modelling approaches, we work in an agile and incremental way, tailoring our approach to specific questions of interest. This brings cutting edge research to bear on our projects, and means we develop a large evidence base over time, with a focus on open source software and academic collaboration.

Learn more about our city modelling lab

Stakeholder engagement and communication

Collective action from city leaders, business and communities is key to accelerating action in the face of intensifying climate impacts. We lead stakeholder engagement consultations and design governance structures to ensure broad support to tailored policies and action. With major structural changes needed to move from a carbon-based economy, stakeholder engagement is increasingly important to ensure a considered and just transition.

Funding and financing net zero cities

We design investable climate action programmes and support to make ambitions a reality through funding and finance. Working alongside multilateral banks, governments and regional development banks, we identify the right projects and appropriate grants to help cities achieve their carbon reduction goals, ensuring investments return tangible benefits, and that these benefits are shared equitably. We also support the design of innovative financing solutions and structures, to enable finance to flow into climate projects.

Learn more about our economics and planning expertise

Read more about the role of local carbon offsetting in engaging communities

Green and thriving neighbourhoods guidebook Green and thriving neighbourhoods guidebook

Net zero buildings: where do we stand?

The building industry is responsible for 38%, or around 14 gigatons, of all energy-related GHG emissions each year. This calls on the built environment industry to adopt a whole life-cycle approach to assessing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings.

Download the report

The building industry is responsible for 38%, or around 14 gigatons, of all energy-related GHG emissions each year. This calls on the built environment industry to adopt a whole life-cycle approach to assessing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from buildings.

Download the report

Latest cities perspectives

Achieving cities’ net zero goals will require uncommon collaborations and bold new ideas. Here is some of our latest thinking:


Meet our people