Planning for London’s carbon dioxide emissions targetsIntroduction:
The question asks for an assessment of the delivery of carbon emission targets. It does notask for an evaluation of these targets or the science of climate change and the role of carbondioxide therein. This essay therefore does not consider whether we need to mitigate theeffects of climate change or adapt to them, and steers clear of discussing how alarmed weshould be over global warming. These issues have been covered at great length elsewhere andthere is no space to address them in any meaningful way here. Underpinning the essay is anassumption, based on existing scientific knowledge, that climate change is real and carbondioxide emissions are partly responsible - and that more could and should be done to protectfuture generations.To assess how the effectiveness of planning as a delivery mechanism, this essay will break down its role in different sectors and at different scales. Planners are not always explicitlymentioned when targets are discussed, although responsibility does trickle through the systemand often lands at their door. As the guardians about decisions over land use, planners havetwo rules to play: one as the enforcer of environmental standards, and another more strategicrole looking to the future.Although it is politicians and not planners who dictate the terms of the debate, I will consider the notion that planners have an influence. The environment is just one of the many factorsthat planners are supposed to take into account. As Davoudi et al (2009:pg16) note: planningcan play “a pivotal role not just as a technical means by which climate change policies can bedelivered but also as a democratic arena through which negotiations over seeminglyconflicting goals can take place.”
The first step in analysing planning as a tool for delivering carbon dioxide targets is todetermine what those targets are and who sets them. London is subject to policy andlegislation on several levels, the most stringent of which have been set locally. The UK’starget under the 1997 Kyoto protocol is for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 12.5 percent from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Although global leaders failed to agree new targetswhen they met in Copenhagen in 2009, London is committed both nationally and locally tomore stringent goals. The 2008 Climate Change Act sets a target for carbon emissions to becut 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 (with an interim target of a 34 percent reduction by2020). In London, Mayor Boris Johnson aims to reduce London’s carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2025.
Authorities can choose from several methods to reduce emissions. They can seek to influence behaviour through market based approaches such as taxes (which can, for example, make polluting less attractive), subsidies (to encourage the uptake or development of newtechnologies), or emissions trading. These activities mostly fall outside planners’ remit.Another tool is government regulations and standards, for which planners are needed tomonitor compliance. Another option for reducing emissions is to seek to influence behaviour through education and social networks, although effectiveness will be limited if people feelstandards of behaviour are being imposed on them. To be effective here, planners andauthorities will need to engage with the public.