An assessment of the motivation and ability of local authorities in the North West of England to meet the Paris Agreement in relation to terrestrial transport emissions

  • William Fitzpatrick

Student thesis: Phd


In Paris 2015, the nations of the world agreed to limit the increase in global mean temperature to well below 2oC, meaning controls on greenhouse gas emissions are urgently required. In the UK, cutting transport emissions has proven challenging. Investigating the factors that constrain this potential is, therefore, critical for the UK in delivering on its climate change commitments. Many of the UK's large cities have developed ambitious plans describing how they might reduce transport greenhouse gas emissions. These plans generally place an emphasis on large-scale interventions such as metro systems or congestion charges. However, in industrialised areas of the world, most of the population, and transport greenhouse gas emissions, are not associated with large cities, but with "small cities". In these communities, such large-scale interventions may not be practical or effective. In this thesis, it is argued that, outside large cities in industrialised regions of the world, particularly in lower tier regions, there are knowledge gaps relating to reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, in terms of meeting climate change targets in these areas, the relationship between local government policy and regional capability is poorly understood. To address these knowledge gaps, this thesis presents an investigation into reducing transport greenhouse gas emissions in small cities in a lower tier region of the industrialised world. This investigation has been undertaken in the North West of England and from the perspective of the local authorities that control local policy development and implementation. The research involves desk-based analysis and interviews with planners who are responsible for developing and implementing transport policy in a selection of local authorities covering differing city jurisdictions. These assessments identify factors that control motivation and ability relating to emissions reduction. The findings help to define existing policy constraints and patterns of their diffusion. Data analysis, including from grey and academic literature sources, is used as the basis for a new regional model of transport emissions, to assess the impact of policies associated with small cities in meeting regional, national and global Paris Agreement targets. The thesis concludes that local constraints, relating to development and implementation of policy, significantly restrict regional capability, in terms of meeting defined targets. In meeting these targets, the research highlights the importance of planner's perception of local population attitudes in determining their motivation, together with the importance of local and national political support. The relationship between relative and absolute city size and ability to instigate change is also described. Constraints on ability and motivation mean that, outside large cities, half of the local authorities contacted were not committed to significantly reducing transport emissions and, where commitments were given, planners considered that, in the current landscape, these commitments would not be achieved. Recommendations outline how provision of targeted personnel, power and funding, when applied to small cities in the industrialised world, could alleviate constraints.
Date of Award31 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCarly McLachlan (Supervisor) & Alice Larkin (Supervisor)


  • Small Cities
  • Transport
  • Climate Change
  • Local Authorities

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