The UK Government’s legally binding commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is admirable, but needs a proper plan.
The recent publication of The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution is a useful guide to the Government’s ambitions, but it lacks any real substance. The extensive list of outstanding white papers and strategies identified at the end shows that there is still a lot more thinking to do.
And then there are the practicalities:
- £12 billion of government investment is insufficient on its own to achieve zero carbon. In 2011, the GLA estimated that London alone would need around £40 billion to reduce CO2 emissions by 60% from 1990 levels by 2025. The Government therefore needs to clearly establish a strategy for bridging the funding gap and attracting sufficient private investment (perhaps the planned new National Infrastructure Bank highlighted in the Chancellor’s recent Spending Review could, if ambitious enough, be used to this effect).
- Planning practitioners (consultants, officers and inspectors) will need the right training, expertise and administrative systems to deliver what are undoubtedly complex and scientific initiatives through a highly political and at times outmoded planning system.
- As ever, planning policy remains woefully behind the curve – despite 205 councils declaring climate emergencies – and so action and technical expertise is needed to ensure that local plans provide the right decision-making base. The Government’s Ten Point Plan might be the catalyst for this; and
- Developers will need to do yet more costly work before submitting planning applications, with environmental impacts more clearly identified and dealt with, if applications are to go through the planning system without unnecessary delay.
Whilst the UK’s net zero target is now established law, there’s clearly a lot to do before this becomes a reality. And, worryingly, there’s a potential cop out lurking underneath: if, after five years, other countries have not adopted similar goals, the UK Government could reappraise (and probably reduce) what are currently laudable – albeit fairly vague – ambitions.
To access a copy of a new Briefing Note on net zero carbon and planning, please click here.
Delivering London’s Energy Future: The Mayor’s Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Strategy (October 2011)
The Financial Times: The UK’s net zero target: what are the greatest challenges?