Driving Net Zero: 3Ci’s Impact at UKREiiF 2024

By Steve Turner, Director, 3Ci

UKREiiF, now in its third year, has firmly established itself as the premier UK event for real estate investment. It’s a far cry from Cannes, of course, but arguably it’s more real with a greater focus on place. The barges in and around the Royal Armouries aren’t quite the billionaire yachts of the Mediterranean, but they’re more colourful and reflect an industrial history from which we are still learning lessons.

The Need for a New Green Industrial Revolution

One of those lessons is about a new green industrial revolution. Unlike its 19th-century counterpart, the effects and impacts need to be better managed in a way that creates jobs and business growth, builds more sustainable and resilient communities, and drives investment in infrastructure and technology. This modern revolution prioritises environmental sustainability alongside economic progress, ensuring that the growth we achieve today does not compromise the well-being of future generations.

3Ci’s Role at UKREiiF

It’s refreshing, therefore, that Net Zero and the environment continue to be central to the UKREiiF agenda. Taking advantage of this, 3Ci (Cities Commission for Climate Investment) contributed to a range of panels and showcased its activities within the CPC pavilion on Wednesday afternoon.

Highlighting Key Panels and Discussions

One of the standout moments was a stellar panel chaired by Catherine McGuinness CBE, which delved into the recommendations from her Net Zero Investment Task Force. The findings from this task force, released in the House of Lords back in February, emphasise the critical role of cities in driving the net zero agenda. The panel featured prominent city leaders such as Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, and Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow. Both, huge advocates of 3Ci, were clear that the biggest impediment to their cities securing the transition focused on the skills needed to bring investable propositions forward for private sector investment.

Engaging Investors with Dragon’s Den Style Events

Following this insightful panel, 3Ci hosted two “Dragon’s Den” style events where cities presented their Net Zero Neighbourhoods projects to a panel of investors. Cities like Leeds, Sheffield, Glasgow, and Hounslow showcased their innovative plans, aiming to create sustainable and resilient urban areas. The investors, or “dragons,” responded enthusiastically, expressing interest in further discussions at the upcoming London Climate Action Week. This event, scheduled for the end of June, will see 3Ci collaborating with NatWest on a city investment event, fostering deeper connections and potential investments. Enabling place-Based Net Zero Event

Winning the Sustainability Award

From a ‘walk the talk’ perspective, I was happy to see that the CPC pavilion was given a Sustainability Champion Award at UKREiiF! Our pavilion was celebrated for its innovative practices, which include designing reusable exhibition stands to minimise waste, using digital tools to replace traditional paper-based materials, employing local materials and suppliers to reduce carbon footprints, and implementing energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy sources. This accolade is a testament to our dedication to sustainable practices and innovation, setting a new standard for sustainability at large-scale events.

As I headed home on the train, mulling over the whirlwind of the past three days, the conversations from various panels and pavilions stuck with me. The overwhelming positivity resonates deeply, but with a resolute focus on action and moving forward. It’s clear that the collective effort of the entire team has been monumental, and I am immensely proud to be part of such a dedicated group. Together, we are not just part of an event; we are driving meaningful change and shaping the future we envision.

3Ci’s Evolution: Nurturing Sustainable Urban Development

By Steve Turner, Director, 3Ci

Tracing the trajectory of 3Ci reveals a journey marked by organic growth and collective ambition, rooted in a shared vision of sustainable urban development. 

From modest beginnings, 3Ci has cultivated strategic partnerships with influential entities like the M10 Leadership Group, Scottish Cities Alliance, and Key Cities, fostering a culture of collaboration and shared purpose. 

With quiet determination, 3Ci emerged onto the global stage, making its presence felt at prestigious events such as COP26, COP27, and COP28. Amidst the clamor of these gatherings, 3Ci effectively championed the cause of sustainability and climate action. 

Fueling progress through impactful initiatives, 3Ci orchestrated a series of regional investment events, which laid the groundwork for transformative projects that resonate with communities across the UK. 

Through its insightful reports and practical guidance, 3Ci has empowered local authorities and stakeholders, equipping them with the tools and knowledge needed to navigate the complexities of sustainable urban development. 

Amidst this journey, 3Ci’s commitment to catalysing change remains steadfast, reflected in initiatives like the National Net Zero Project Pipeline and the 3Ci Net Zero Investment Taskforce. These initiatives effectively drive innovation and investment towards a more sustainable future. 

As 3Ci continues to grow and evolve, its resolute dedication to fostering sustainable urban development inspires communities and stakeholders to join hands in building a better tomorrow, one step at a time. We will focus on positioning UK cities and regions at the forefront of global initiatives to secure essential funding for achieving Net Zero. 

Our Mission: Supporting Local Authorities in Achieving Net Zero 

At the heart of 3Ci’s journey lies a profound mission: to support local authorities in securing the necessary long-term finance for achieving net zero. Our place-based experience and ability to convene government and financial institutions make us perfectly placed to help deliver that investment. By fostering collaboration among public and private stakeholders, we aim to surmount obstacles related to finance, scale, and capacity. Our goal is to cultivate an environment conducive to directing private investment into cities and regions, thereby accelerating progress towards Net Zero. 

Advancing Financial Models through the Net Zero Neighbourhood Pipeline 

Furthermore, in line with our mission, 3Ci is shifting its focus towards developing specific projects in the Net Zero Neighbourhood Pipeline and advancing the financial models that will evolve through this endeavor. This strategic move underscores our commitment to translating discussions into concrete actions, driving tangible progress towards a sustainable future. As we embark on this next phase of our journey, 3Ci remains steadfast in its commitment to championing change, fostering collaboration, and driving sustainable urban development across the UK and beyond. Join us in shaping a future where sustainability is not just a goal but a reality for generations to come. 

Investment Taskforce Examines Barriers to Housing Retrofit

3Ci’s Net Zero Investment Taskforce, Comprising Finance Industry Leaders, launch a New Report into ‘Net Zero Neighbourhoods’ at the House of Lords.
Report finds support for large-scale private sector investment in Net-Zero Neighbourhoods.

19.03.24, LONDON, 3Ci – The Cities Commission for Climate Investment – has today published the initial findings and recommendations of its Net Zero Investment Taskforce. The report, titled ‘From Challenge to Opportunity: Unlocking a UK-wide Net Zero Investment Dividend’, was unveiled at an event in the House of Lords.

The Taskforce, comprising a diverse array of stakeholders from banking, insurance, pensions, venture capital, and ESG investment sectors, was convened to examine 3Ci’s innovative financing model for Net Zero Neighbourhoods, with a primary focus on unlocking funding for housing retrofit initiatives.

The Net Zero Neighbourhoods concept takes a multi asset approach to neighbourhood decarbonisation operating across domestic and commercial property retrofit; renewable energy; transport; and waste. The model uses a share of returns from high-yield assets, like energy, to pump-prime low-performing ones, like retrofit and waste, potentially captured in a single financial vehicle. The model aims to reduce the need for the scale of public subsidy required for retrofit whilst delivering interventions at no additional upfront cost to the homeowner or tenant – a potential game-changer.

The Taskforce highlighted that strategic public investment can leverage private finance. They suggest further consideration should be given to integrating existing and future public investment with private finance, including grant funding. From an investor perspective, major patient investors like pension and insurance companies, whose capital is in some ways most suited to retrofit, are attracted to very large-scale projects, the likes of which most current schemes cannot achieve. Creating scale across multiple programmes and geographies could unlock this capital.

The much sought-after solution to retrofit financing of crowding-in higher levels of private investment could therefore be realised through the ‘Net Zero Neighbourhoods’ model. Investors agreed that local authorities must play a central role in Net Zero Neighbourhoods by linking to area regeneration plans and services, supporting local jobs and economic growth.

Catherine McGuinness CBE, Chair of the 3Ci Net Zero Investment Taskforce and Non-Executive Director at Connected Places Catapult, said:

“Our findings reaffirm that decarbonising neighbourhoods at scale is not straightforward. Whilst our aim may be to retrofit homes, we are also trying to retrofit a financial system and its models to a purpose for which they were not created. A rapid evolution is required, creating an investment ecosystem that will help the market to adapt and new models to emerge.” 

Prof Greg Clark CBE, Chair of 3Ci and Connected places Catapult said:

“3Ci has a vital mission to enable the urban investment required in delivering the UK’s ambitious net zero commitment, city by city, and neighbourhood by neighbourhood. I am grateful to Catherine and the members of this taskforce for taking such a diligent view of the current opportunities and challenges to invest in retrofit at scale, and how we can address them.”   

The Taskforce’s recommendations include the following:
Activate Retrofit Demonstrators as a top priority: a series of demonstrators are needed to address the challenges highlighted by this Taskforce, considering how they can also enable a Just Transition through financing models and identify the key project elements/players that need to be on board.

Convene a UK-wide conversation, starting with a Net Zero Investment Summit: with a commitment to a structured 2–3-year dialogue, steered by a collective of place leadership, investors and politicians from the Devolved Administrations as well as the UK government, alongside the many agencies delivering excellent work in this space to cohere findings and efforts.

A stronger enabling environment should be built for net zero investment, including further clarity of national intent for local net zero policy to establish market confidence.  For example, delivery cannot happen without a stronger supply chain, which relies on such confidence.

Taskforce members:

Association of British Insurers
Investment Delivery Forum
City of London Corporation
Big Society Capital
Building Societies Association

British Property Federation

British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association (BVCA)


Impact Investing Institute

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

Legal & General (L&G)

Local Government Association (LGA)

Lloyds Banking Group


Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB)

United Kingdom Infrastructure Bank (UKIB)

UK Finance

-ENDS- Notes to editors Media contact: Alex Smith, PR and Marcomms Manager, Connected Places Catapult alex.smith@cp.catapult.org.uk +44 (0) 7741 195398 Any conclusions drawn in this report are those of 3Ci alone.  

About 3Ci

3Ci – Cities Commission for Climate Investment (formerly known as UKCCIC) – is a partnership between Connected Places Catapult, Core Cities UK, London Councils, Key Cities, Scottish Cities Alliance and supported by Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the Local Government Association. Our aim is to ensure that urban investment plays a key role in delivering the UK’s ambitious net zero commitment, city by city and neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Our initiatives bring together business, finance and local communities to accelerate change through innovation that is fair to all. Alongside this, we are supporting local authorities to secure the necessary long-term finance to achieve net zero.   3ci.org.uk

About Connected Places Catapult

Connected Places Catapult is the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and place leadership. We provide impartial ‘innovation as a service’ for public bodies, businesses, and infrastructure providers to catalyse step-change improvements in the way people live, work and travel.  We connect businesses and public sector leaders to cutting-edge research to spark innovation and grow new markets. We run technology demonstrators and SME accelerators to scale new solutions that drive growth, spread prosperity, and reduce carbon emissions. cp.catapult.org.uk

Highlights from our North East & Yorkshire Regional Investor Forum

Take a look at our highlights reel to gain a sense of the day.

COP28 – Thoughts from 3Ci’s Director, Steve Turner

So, COP28 finally delivered. Nobody got everything they wanted, they never do, but there was just enough to give us hope. At one point things appeared more than a little desperate. The final deal on the phasing out of fossil fuels IS a major step forward. The final texts are far from perfect, and the lobbyists came in their droves, but lobbyists only turn up when they are scared. 

There is still a lot of work to do. We need renewed effort to crack the financial challenges. Our current financial systems mean that for capital to flow we need projects of investable credibility with risk adjusted returns that provide opportunities for profit, but at borrowing rates which cites can actually afford. 

An inability to break through this barrier will result in all those Hollywood dystopian scenarios becoming true; collapse of global agriculture and food systems; mass migration from drought ridden regions; subsequent rise of populist far right governments; increased conflicts around the world and the subsequent collapse of organised civic society. However, there’s a Wall of Sound coming out of COP28, the collective voice of city mayors, who will of course be on the frontline in dealing with these climate impacts. 

Cities cannot do this on their own however, governments must play their role, pledging commitment to the right policies and programmes that enable cities to get on with the complex aspects of delivery. There is a sense however, that the trust between central and local government across the world has been eroded and needs rebuilding. Cities are the powerhouses of green growth and if governments can give them the right policy instruments, they can unleash the huge social and economic dividends on offer.  

This is why it’s been pleasing to hear the growing momentum around the role of cities and mobilising private finance at COP, some of the themes emerging included; 

  • The first Local Climate Action Summit hosted by Bloomberg and the COP28 UAE Presidency, the Urbanisation Ministerial for a second year running and the launch of CHAMP – Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships. These welcome initiatives included a focus on mobilising public and private sector investment into cities. 
  • A significant ramping up of the number of activities convening investors and cities with a growing appetite amongst the former to forge early stage engagement and meaningful partnerships with cities, including agreement to develop an investment blueprint based on Govanhill in Glasgow. 
  • Recognition that investment also needs to be made on the social side of the just transition not just physical infrastructure in order that citizens benefit through increased jobs and skills. 
  • Increased demand for proven examples of local climate action from cities that demonstrate successful collaborative partnerships with investors, including Bristol’s City Leap 
  • Growing interest from the UK and internationally in the 3Ci model for convening cities and investors around development finance, including its deployment through the Urban SDG on Finance. 

All of this provides a platform for 3Ci to continue developing its pioneering approach, one that convenes city leaders and investors to unlock the barriers that hold back the flow of capital; 

  • Firstly, developing new innovative financial models grounded in place that allows for the deployment of blended financial models. The launch of our Net Zero Investment Prospectus and the work of our Net Zero Investment Task Force will help create a network of credible investable neighbourhoods. 
  • Secondly, aggregating projects to provide scale provides investors with a greater rate of return, which is why we have developed the National Net Zero Project Pipeline and our work on developing sub-regional approaches, including that in South Yorkshire 
  • Thirdly, our work to design and establish a technical assistance facility that allows local authorities to access the right mix of support to enable them to develop more robust investable propositions. 

There is much to look forward to in 2024 and 3Ci already has an exciting array of events and initiatives planned. We will further strengthen our city relationships and grow our networks with investors, because the battle against climate change will ultimately be won or lost on the streets of cities. 

Highlights from our London Regional Forum

Take a look at our highlights reel to gain a sense of the day.


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