Monday, May 4, 2020

Taking advantage of a pandemic

Those concerned about climate breakdown (it seems strange that this does not yet seem to concern every sentient being) are looking closely at the Covid crisis to see what lessons might be learned.  There are conflicting views about transport; will use of public transport stall due to distancing? will car use increase due to the isolation? will big mobility projects (egHS2 and Heathrow) be cancelled?  some people seem to believe that the "unprecedented" (the word/cliche of the crisis) interference by Government and the apparent compliance of the public creates a precedent for the kind of Government actions and behavioural change implied by the transition to net zero carbon.  Possibly?

The most likely outcome will be a Government distracted by getting the Country up and running (and Brexit), and action on climate change might be too much to ask. COP26 will bring the matter onto the agenda when rescheduled for 2021 but in the meantime - and time is very short - individual actions will be the main way for progress to be made.  It is very unfortunate that this seems to be the case, but the 'public' are in a state of 'unprecedented' awareness and could be receptive to more calls to action on top of the call to inaction. This is within our powers and Government can follow (as it often does) when it has tried to repair the economic damage.  If there are common  themes to a post pandemic lifestyle and a low carbon one these should be locked down. 

This leaves the planning system in limbo. Are all existing policies (eg NPPF and local plans) to be taken as up-to-date and Covid will have no lasting impact? Or could planning become proactive and opportunist and seek to consolidate the environmental gains seen over the last few months? This would require a coordinated effort by people, councillors, officers and, possibly inspectors, while the Secretary of State and the Government remain distracted.

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