SOUTHAMPTON has the potential to become one of the UK’s most environmentally sustainable cities, a report has found.

The research says Southampton is on course to be among the top five urban areas for economic growth at the start of 2021 – but also among the top three for lowest CO2 emissions per person.

But the study also says the city is among the bottom five in the country for recycling, with only 25 per cent of its waste recycled. In top-placed Bournemouth, the figure is 49 per cent.

The report, UK Powerhouse, by law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Centre for Economic & Business Research, said the city had seen carbon emissions fall by 6.3 per cent year-on-year as of 2017.

Southampton was ranked 20th for the percentage of workers commuting by low emission means such as bus and rail – and 13th for zero emission methods of transport, i.e. walking and cycling.

Hannah Clipston, partner and head of business legal services at Irwin Mitchell in Southampton, said: "The ever-more urgent topic of climate change and sustainability has reached the highest level of government and it’s important that business recognise not only the important role they have to play, but also the opportunities that exist.

“In the case of Southampton, it performs well in some indicators of environmental sustainability but poorly in others. If it can continue to improve its share of low-and zero-emission transport, carbon emissions can decrease even further making it possible for Southampton to become one of the most sustainable cities in the UK.”

Cllr Steve Leggett, cabinet member for green city and environment on Southampton City Council, said: “The results shown in this report are really positive for Southampton, We are committed to leading the way in making the city a cleaner, greener, healthier and more sustainable place to live, work and visit.

“We launched our Green City Charter in June to address some of the most challenging environmental issues and are compiling a list of objectives to ensure that we reach the ambitious and challenging goals set. We are already going beyond the pollution targets set by government.

“As part of our Local Transport Plan, we are committed to implementing our Southampton Cycle Network to increase the availability and safety of cycling, to make cycling in the city an everyday norm. The award winning My Journey campaign also continues to work with schools and colleges and workplaces in supporting people in using alternative sustainable and active travel options.”

The council was working with public transport providers and had supported them in fitting their buses with technology for cleaner diesel.