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Environ Essay Fin

Environ Essay Fin

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Published by emissima

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Published by: emissima on May 11, 2011
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Candidate Number: STWD7BENVGPLB – Urban EnvironmentalManagement“In the city you have chosen (London)what role does planning play indelivering carbon dioxide targets?”
 
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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 targets
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.
Planning’s role
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 behaviouthrough 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.
 
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The scope and extent of planning powers are set by national and local governments. The previous government said the planning system “has an important role to play” in helping itdeliver its environmental targets (CLG 2007:pg11). Specifically, it said planners can supportthe building of zero or lower-carbon homes; locate new development to reduce travel needs;encourage walking and cycling; improve public transport; speed up the shift to renewables;and help places adapt to climate change such as flooding and coastal erosion. The currentgovernment appears to be less keen in using what it has described as top-down system(CLG2010), and is seeking both to reform planning to make it more responsive to localdemands and to use more market-based methods of encouraging change. Looking to thefuture, however, planners have a strategic role to play, informing government policy over how decisions over future and existing land use can reduce emissions.The effectiveness of the planning system depends on planners’ understanding of climatechange and the priority they accord it – or are required to accord it - compared with the socialand economic considerations. Revelations from the science of climate change have prompted planners to adapt their processes, methods, skills and even perceptions of what makes a good place (Davoudi et al 2009:pg15). Climate change is not an exact science, but modellingsystems such as ESTEEM (Estimation of Transport Energy and Emissions Model) can help planners understand the most likely scenarios and identify options – and show decisionmakers the potential effect of their policies, encouraging a precautionary approach.Planners also need to communicate across administrative borders for a consistentenvironmental impact assessment. For contractors, different standards can be confusing andnon-specific requirements such as ‘reducing energy use’ allows for wiggle room. There aresome internationally recognised methods for sustainable building such as BREEAM (BREEnvironmental Assessment Method) or the LEED green building rating system which couldhelp.
National level
The current government has frequently voiced its frustration with planners, who risk beingside-lined in favour of market mechanisms such as the Green Investment Bank, intended toencourage investment in low carbon infrastructure. Given that there is no money in planningand government coffers are empty, this may well be the most efficient way of achieving thesespecific aims.However, more broadly reforms to the planning system include a presumption in favour of “sustainable development.” The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG2011) says this means “that the default answer to development and growth is “yes” rather than “no”, except where this would clearly compromise the key sustainable development principles in national planning policy, including protecting the Green Belt and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. The two cited principles do not appear to fit with the mostcommonly used definition of sustainable development as “development that meets the needsof the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their ownneeds” (United Nations 1987). Without clear imperatives from government, sustainabilityrisks becoming an indulgent extra. As Jason Martin, an associate an architecture firmHawkins/Brown says of development: “Money will always be the main driver but in borderline cases sustainability arguments may tip the balance with responsible and/or imageconscious clients” (Max Fordam 2010:pg04).
Local level

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