Friday, March 6, 2020

Local Enterprise Partnerships and carbon

Since the coalition government of 2010 replaced regional planning with local enterprise partnerships and the duty to cooperate the 38 LEPs have been responsible for substantial levels of central government money being channeled into 'economic growth'. Many operate in areas where most if not all local councils have declared climate and ecological emergencies but have not followed suit.  This might have to change.

The Heathrow judgement could and should be read to mean that all decisions relating to urban development must be seen to have been informed by the UK Governments decision to ratify the Paris climate agreement.  This was to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees C but to aspire to limit this to 1.5 degrees C.  Since then the IPCC has explained (report October 2018) that there would be a significant difference  in environmental impacts between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming and the former is now the accepted target. 

Secondly, after considerable turmoil, the PM has chosen the Business Secretary, Ashok Sharma MP as the President of the COP26 to be held in Glasgow in November 2020.   Without over-analyzing this appointment, putting the Business Secretary in charge of the global conference and showing the UK as leaders in the field could be a rare opportunity to make progress on a national front.  BEIS is already in charge of  Community Energy Hubs designed, “…to support Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to play a leading role in delivering low carbon economic growth.”.   Assuming that 'low carbon' is of genuine interest then BEIS must go further and require LEPs to follow suit and only support development that is compatible with the transition to net zero carbon.

All those interested in influencing how the planning system helps (and does not hinder) the transition to net zero carbon should be engaging with their MPs to pressure the Business Secretary to bring LEPs into line.  Beyond that (and beyond the scope of this planning blog), the President of COP26 would be expected to represent a Government that is insisting on trade deals that are carbon neutral  or negative. The US presidential elections take place a week before the COP and the UK Government should be insisting that all the deals being negotiated with the US can be seen to have a carbon neutral or negative outcome on the UK account.

Planners and Extinction Rebellion

Anybody who has been involved in non-violent direct action (a rebellion) to bring the climate emergency to the attention of government and the public would have seen scientists and doctors against climate change dressed in appropriate garb and explaining why their specialist knowledge motivates them to take to the streets.

Planners have specialist knowledge of the impacts that urban developments are having in terms of carbon emissions (embodied in construction and in operation) and on local ecology- or they should have.  This applies to those promoting developments and those employed in dealing with applications.  However, planners do not appear on the streets as such, either because they are unconcerned about these impacts or regard NVDA as futile or not what they do.

Given that the use and development of land and buildings is directly or indirectly responsible for about 50% of carbon emissions (and significant biodiversity loss) the absence of planners (as such) is very disappointing.  When the public is becoming increasingly aware of the  threat of climate change there is little chance of the reputation of the planning profession being enhanced while the planning system is known to be complicit in carbon emissions increasing and its members stand and stare and shrug their shoulders.  Any planner who feel like showing that they care about what is being done with permissions being granted through a system of which they are part should get in touch.

NB The Royal Institute of British Architects has declared a climate emergency but architects have  not been conspicuous on the streets of London.