UK Publishes Sixth Carbon Budget

By Ellen Nicholson

The Government has published their sixth carbon budget which will set the world’s most ambitious climate change target into law to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. This new target steps up the existing commitment to reduce emissions in 2030 by at least 68% compared to 1990 levels through the UK’s latest Nationally Determined Contribution – the highest reduction target made by a major economy to date.

In line with recommendations from the independent Climate Change Committee, this Carbon Budget limits the volume of greenhouse gases emitted over a 5-year period from 2033 to 2037, taking the UK more than three-quarters of the way to reaching net zero by 2050. For the first time, this Carbon Budget will also incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions to allow for these emissions to be accounted for consistently.

The Carbon Budget aims to ensure the UK remains on track to end its contribution to climate change, while remaining consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature goal to limit global warming to well below 2°C and pursue efforts towards 1.5°C. The new target will become enshrined in law by the end of June 2021.

The Government have published a number of strategies and measures to tackle climate change as well as the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution and the Energy White Paper. The Government will look to meet the net zero target through investing and capitalising on new green technologies and innovation. They announced over £5billion of funding and the creation of thousands of new jobs to support the development of these new technologies.

What does this mean for planners?

Addressing climate change is one of the core land use planning principles in the National Planning Policy Framework which underpins both plan-making and decision-taking. The pressure will be on both local authorities and applicants to ensure developments contribute to these targets. Future Local Plans must prioritise and promote the delivery of sustainable development in order to be found sound, and applicants must continue to demonstrate how developments employ measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change. No doubt this will continue to evolve as we see enhancements in green technologies and sustainable design and build methods.

The recently adopted new London Plan is clear on the requirement for developments to contribute towards London’s ambitious target to become zero-carbon by 2050 by increasing energy efficiency, including the use of smart technologies, and utilising low carbon energy sources. London’s homes and workplaces are responsible for producing approximately 78% of its greenhouse gas emissions. A zero-carbon target for major residential developments has been in place for London since October 2016, however the new London Plan also places this target on major non-residential developments.

Reaching net zero by 2050 and delivering on these green infrastructure programme’s will be essential for the sustainable long-term growth of the UK as well as benefitting our overall health and wellbeing. We will continue to monitor how these ambitious targets translate into reality!

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