Climate change responses

Regeneration & Development

Evidence shows that climate change being one of the greatest challenges of our time. The world has warmed up by about 0.7C in the last 100 years and manmade emissions of CO2 are the principle cause. Global temperature rises of up to 4C are predicted for the next 100 years if emissions continue at their present rate with knock-on effects on extreme events such as storms, sea level rise, droughts and increased levels of precipitation Climate change is the biggest long-term threat to our prosperity and well-being. This is not only about large-scale action at international and national levels, but local and individual action too redress.

'The large-scale process of adapting the existing built environment, with varying degrees of direction from the state' Jones, P. And Evans, J. (2008) Urban Regeneration in the UK, London: Sage publications

"Sustainable Communities must combine social inclusion, homes, jobs, services, infrastructure and respect for the environment to create places where people will want to live and work now and in the future." Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP, Deputy Prime Minister, February 2005

In recent years urban policy has come to rely increasingly on private-sector property development to provide the driving force. Five ways in which property could contribute to urban economic regeneration: through the direct employment effects of construction-related activity; by accommodating the expansion of indigenous firms; by attracting inward investment; by revitalising run-down neighbourhoods; and by initiating area wide economic restructuring. Appropriate property development can have positive economic effects but it has to be part of a more holistic approach that embodies concerns for people living in deprived areas and for the underlying condition of the local economy.

It is imperative that the consequents of climate change are reduced to achieve this aim the reduction of carbon emissions must become engrained in the Regeneration and Development process. When a neighborhood is to be regenerated the reduction of CO2 needs to become core value with in the Master plan. This can be achieved by introduction of new technologies in both new build and refurbishment of existing stock, but this will also require investment in high quality public transport. The reliance on the car can further be reduced if the location of local services such as schools, shops and GP surgeries and well planed.

The Built Environment accounts for about half of the UK's carbon emissions. When buildings and places are properly designed, they can support a low carbon and sustainable lifestyle which can help to off set the negative cause of climate change. In 2005 the Stern review address the issue of climate change, the built environment must now demonstrate how it intends to deal with the issues raised in the review.

Climate change has focussed attention on development and construction because more than half of the UK's CO2 emissions emanate from buildings, with the manufacture of building materials accounting for a further 10%.

An easy answer to cutting CO2 emissions would be to stop construction; but obviously that's not possible because of the increasing social and economic pressure for development, particularly new housing. The Government has formulated three solutions, the first of which is regulation intended directly to cut CO2 emissions arising out of human activity.

The April 2006 revision of Part L1/L2 Building Regulations imposes, amongst other things, maximum CO2 emissions for new buildings and encourages the use of low or zero carbon systems. The government aims to achieve its ambitious target of all new homes, public sector and commercial buildings being carbon zero by 2016, 2018 and 2019 respectively.

October 2008 saw the introduction of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC), designed to help improve the energy efficiency of buildings, with a certificate required whenever a building is built, sold or rented out.

The second solution is regulation intended indirectly to reduce emissions, notably planning law which requires Environmental Statements to accompany planning schemes for all significant urban developments.

It is now mandatory for new homes to be rated against the Code for Sustainable Homes which measures new homes against nine categories of sustainable design and forms the basis for future building regulations in relation to CO2 emissions from and energy use in homes.

The third solution is for the Government to facilitate business activities which help reduce overall CO2 emissions and this presents real opportunities for imaginative low carbon forms of development. Making the existing housing stock more energy efficient requires a change in behaviour and planning life-cycle maintenance programmes. Although demand for new housing puts the industry under pressure to build, there is room for cautious optimism.

The design and construction industries are devising viable and imaginative methods for combating climate change, notably through the integration of renewable energy sources and recycling systems. Projects such as BedZED in South London and Solar City in Sandwell in the West Midlands show what can be achieved. The revamp of the BREEAM system has introduced minimum requirements for energy and water consumption and compulsory post construction certification, addressing how the design operates in practice. This ensures the industry continues to develop by offering additional credit for innovative projects.

The emergence of specialist developers and contractors who are able to reclaim land that only a few years ago would have been unusable, offers the hope of environmentally sustainable construction and development for post-industrial sites in many cities - now we can even recycle the land.

Planning involves twin activities - the management of the competing uses for space, and the making of places that are valued and have identity. These activities focus on the location and quality of social, economic and environmental change. In setting out its visionfor planning, the term spatial planning to encompass these. Spatial planning operates at all the different possible scales of activity, from large-scale national or regional strategies to the more localised design and organisation of towns, villages and neighbourhoods. It affects everyone, making policies setting out visions for places and decisions about matters ranging from the location of major new transport or energy facilities and employment development,through to the development of new shops, schools, dwellings or parks needed by local communities. It considers the things that we value and supports our ongoing use of the environment to maintain or enhance these; from the integrity of the atmosphere to limit climate change, to the provision of habitat for individual species; from the identification of global cultural heritage to locally valued townscapes. It maintains the best of the past, whilst encouraging innovation in the design and development of future buildings and neighbourhoods to meet our future needs.

It also drives an increase in the demand for energy to use appliances for heating, lighting, cooking, and various electrical appliances such as computers and televisions. This trend is likely to be particularly marked in transition economies and the developed world where economic growth is likely to be greatest. The climate in different countries will also affect the demand for energy to heat and cool buildings.

Energy demand will be influenced by the energy end-use efficiency. For example, advanced technologies for appliances such as air conditioners use 30-40% less energy than 10 years ago. Energy demand is also affected by the efficiency of the building its self, for example the level of insulation of the building fabric.


Whilst there is still uncertainty about how we can best tackle climate change there is one thing that is certain, we are going to have to face up to a changing climate. The summer of 2007 has already seen the impact of a changing climate with some of the worst flooding seen in the UK in over 100 yrs and the winter of 2009 as seen the most prolonged sub zero temperatures in thirty years. Local authorities and planning bodies face paradoxical challenges in the coming years. The government's targets, set out in its housing green paper, are to increase house building by some 80,000 additional new homes a year until 2020. Yet many of these can and will have to be built on a flood plain of some kind.

Geography in the form of land use mapping, terrain modelling will be crucial to having the right information to hand when planning local responses to these conflicting challenges.

However as with all data, that geographical information should be accurate, timely, and intelligent and above all be fit for purpose. Geographical information can and should be at the heart of any action plan whether local or national in the fight to reduce our carbon emissions and mitigate the effect of a changing climate.

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