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Using data to plan effective community action in Birmingham

Birmingham city skyline, UK, at nighttime
3 February 2023

In Birmingham, the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) led 3D, the innovative, data-led initiative supporting the city’s decarbonisation targets.

Extensive change is needed to meet the UK government target to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. It will need action at all levels, but one of the enabling factors is making use of data to help achieve the transition to zero carbon more effectively.

In Birmingham, the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) led 3D, our innovative, data-led initative supporting the city’s decarbonisation targets.

3D: Data to Decarbonise in a Decade

There‘s growing interest in the use of data to enhance climate action. Good data supports informed decision-making processes, along with informed policies, projects and strategies for reducing emissions. A two year projcet, 3D explored the use of data to support climate action, working with Birmingham City Council and community climate action groups.

Project 3D is a pioneering free online platform collating data specific to the Birmingham City region to apply to climate action initiatives. Funded by Google, through the ICLEI Action Fund and led by CSE, the 3D hub offers a wide range of data sets in different formats including open data on housing, travel, waste, energy, and emissions.

Supporting community climate action with data

A key part of the project was supporting local organisations with their community climate activity. Every community is different, and by paying attention to local needs and requirements, organisations were able to spot ways to improve community climate action and the associated benefits. Local data helped to focus efforts and understand where to make effective changes.

3D used green open data, combined with expert knowledge of local communities, to achieve better results in climate action. Together, a more considered approach was developed that gets to the crux of local issues and address barriers towards a greener future.

Examples from the project

Birmingham County Football Association (BCFA)

BCFA aims to reduce the emissions caused by travelling fans and players to football matches and BCFA aims to reduce the emissions caused by travelling fans and players to football matches and training around Birmingham. Focusing on areas with high levels of multiple deprivations and air pollution, BCFA engaged with football club users to inspire more sustainable transport behaviours such as car sharing, public transport and active travel.

Community Energy Birmingham (CEB)

Community-owned solar panels can help cities reach their net zero targets, but knowing which buildings to install panels on is difficult to assess. CEB and Big Solar Coop used data on solar potential to assist communities in developing solar at scale.


Using data on existing cycle routes, air pollution and deprivation data, Ecobirmingham created a new cycling route that linked all 69 wards of Birmingham together with a 33-mile route. Ecobirmingham engaged with the community to overcome barriers to cycling, encouraging group cycles and promoting the new routes and the benefits of cycling. It’s already received popular support.


To support faith energy support in faith communities, Footsteps, along with other local organisations, used fuel poverty, EPC, waste and air pollution data to target support. Taking a multi-faceted approach, Footsteps increased awareness of energy efficiency advice, helped the community to reduce their household waste and assessed faith buildings to become more energy efficient.

City-wide application of data

As well as local organisations, 3D supported the city-wide application of data to help the council plan large climate change initiatives across Birmingham.

City-wide solar

Using CSE modelling tools and open data, the council was able to look at solar potential across the city and identify specific opportunities for rooftop solar PV. Knowing this information can influence how councils approach the climate emergency and how changes can work in practice.

Home energy efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of housing is critical to reducing carbon emissions, as well as helping people with their energy bills. Birmingham council wanted to know how to allocate funding for energy efficiency programmes, focusing on people in vulnerable circumstances. Data for housing, deprivation, and local socioeconomics highlighted which areas to target support.

Planning for net zero

In this short video, Dan Stone, CSE’s Senior Planner for Net Zero, explains how the project has supported local planners to tackle the climate emergency.

Reducing carbon emissions in your area

Using data effectively to inform climate action is a relatively new idea. The data helps to guide local initiatives to create meaningful changes. Analysing data allows for fruitful conversations around where problems lie, what actions can have the greatest or fastest impact, and the steps needed to target those issues. CSE provides expert advice and guidance for using and analysing complex data to support your work.

Communities understand their area and people better than anyone, but data can add another level to this understanding and can open up new ideas and perspectives.

Interested in more information?

Contact CSE’s communities team to see how we can help your city meet its decarbonisation targets.

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