What is Can-do Cities about?

Cities and communities can sometimes feel that they’re being swept along by the things that happen to them. Can-do Cities is an initiative that emphasizes the potential for cities and communities across the UK to come together to take more control of their future.

Rather than relying on ways of working that may no longer be viable, Can-do Cities calls for organisations and actors from across the public, private and third sectors in different cities and communities to come together to articulate the future that they want and to find new ways of getting there.

By coming together in new ways, cities and communities can be energised and empowered, changing their cultures and building their capacities to deliver on agendas that may otherwise remain unaddressed. By recognising success and spreading good practice, cities and communities can learn from each other and find ways of ensuring that they develop because of what is done by them and for them.


The need for new approaches to tackling urban challenges is widespread. In the area of energy and climate change for example, new research by the University of Leeds reveals that the 50 main cities in the UK could save £7 billion annually - equivalent to £300 per year for every person in each of these cities – and also create more than 90,000 years of extra employment.

The research reveals that by adopting all of the profitable options available to cut their energy use and carbon emissions, the cities could not only wipe billions off their annual bills. There would be striking benefits for people's homes (£2.3 billion savings a year), schools, hospitals, offices and other non-residential buildings (£1.2 billion savings a year) and industry (£510 million savings a year). Exploiting these opportunities could also help the cities to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 23%, over and above what is happening anyway.

The challenge is in building new capacities to enable opportunities such as these to be unlocked. 

The Leeds example

In Leeds, the opportunities relating to energy and carbon are being taken seriously at the highest level with the research findings leading to the creation of Leeds Climate Commission (launching 7 September). The new Leeds Climate Commission is a city partnership with membership drawn from 24 key public, private and third sector organisations. Led initially by the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council, it brings people and organisations together to shape the transition to a low carbon, climate resilient city.  We hope to see other similar Commissions - for example addressing opportunities in infrastructure and transport - emerge in Leeds in the near future, so that a suite of public-private-civic collaborations build the capacity of the city to address the many opportunities and challenges that it faces. 

Can-do Cities hub

Starting with energy and carbon, the Can-do Cities initiative provides up-to-date information, a roadmap and a persuasive (economic, social and environmental) case for action for cities to take charge of their futures. Our Can-do Cities hub site is a clearing house for energy and carbon for UK cities: for the first time, data for all major UK cities is available in one place, in a way that is easy to find, use, compare and promote.

This is a valuable resource for cities and provides tools for action: the hub and its search facility brings together greenhouse gas inventories and summary low carbon development plans for 50 major cities (see map), as well as providing links to cities' own climate change and energy plans and strategies. Emissions inventories, infographics and links for all other UK local authoriies, LEPs and cities are shown on the Can-Do Cities website.  

The offer to all cities and communities

This website has been designed to be used by other cities and communities, and to be adapted for other issues and opportunities.

We would be happy to help other cities, communities, LEPs etc. to develop their own Commissions, establish a Can-Do Cities web page (some terms and conditions apply) or promote links to their climate and energy plans/strategies.


The Can-do Cities website was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the University of Leeds. Their support is gratefully acknowledged.

Further information

To find out more, or to update your web page or talk about developing a web page or commision or your area, please contact us.