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Defining Carbon Neutral - RTPI responds

27 May 2009

The RTPI has responded positively to the Department for Energy and Climate Change's consultation on the term 'Carbon Neutral - its definition and recommendation for good practice'.

Matt Thomson, Head of Policy at the Royal Town Planning Institute said: \"We support the Government's broad approach to defining carbon neutrality. However it is important to recognise though that if we are to rise to the climate change challenge, we need to get serious about reducing emissions, not just off-setting; the 'carbon neutral' standard must be a transitional process on the path to a low-carbon future.

Thomson added: \"It is important that any such definition is independently verified and that the agreed definition of carbon neutral is clearly delineated, easily understood and comparable, so that the public and consumers can judge performance.\"

An additional recommendation of the response was the suggestion that the success of green travel plans should be replicated in the sphere of energy use and carbon emissions through site-level green energy plans, which could have a significant effect in reducing carbon emissions from our building stock.

Such site-level green energy plans could be supported by Green Energy Officers, providing the expertise and understanding to help companies work to reduce their energy use and carbon emissions,

In relation to the creation of an agreed carbon neutral definition, the RTPI has said:

  • 'Kitemark' accreditation for corporate performance in carbon emissions management is needed;
  • Absolute reductions in emissions must form part of a carbon neutral standard;
  • An independent 3rd party verification body is the best option to 'quality control' carbon neutral claims;
  • Any 'carbon neutral' standard should be evaluated periodically to reflect advancements and move towards lower carbon standards.

However, if we are to meet our 2050 targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent, there is an urgent need to move towards actually decreasing emissions, rather than simply offsetting carbon, which can only ever be a small part of the solution.