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Bernadette Hillman: How planners can tackle the climate crisis

Bernadette Hillman is a partner and Head of Planning at Sharpe Pritchard, will be speaking in in a session on “Addressing the Climate Crisis” at this year’s Planner Live North event – tickets available here.

Bernadette at Cop26

Bernadette Hillman at COP26

There is no denying that the world is in a climate crisis, with each year setting new temperature records. However, even the alarming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes it clear that action is needed now more than ever.

While the UK may not be immediately facing some of the extreme consequences of climate change like food or water insecurity, other challenges including urban heat extremes and flooding will only continue to grow. The IPCC report makes it clear that the window for action is shrinking.

Around 74% of councils across the United Kingdom have already declared a climate emergency. Many are committing to achieve Net Zero by 2030 (ahead of the Government’s goal of 2050), while subsequent actions of each council vary to meet the individual needs of each area.

But just how much impact can be made at the local level? And, what is the role of planners in tackling the climate crisis?

According to the UK Green Building Council (GBC), 25 percent of the UK’s carbon emission are attributed to the built environment. A strong local plan can lay the groundwork for promoting higher standards in building energy efficiency and guide development conscious of emissions reductions.

However, planning can have a significant impact in reducing emissions beyond the immediate construction of the built environment. Determining the optimal location for new development can reduce dependency on car travel and encourage the adoption of active transport, like walking and cycling. The impact of planning remains embedded in the landscape for years to come, but creating a more sustainable future begins now.  

The impact planners can make goes beyond the reduction of greenhouse gases

This is why the RTPI and TCPA put together a joint publication on climate change to outline practical steps planners can take to mitigate the climate crisis in October 2021. “The Climate Crisis: A guide for Local Authorities on Planning for Climate Change” explores the role of planning and identifies specific strategies that can be implemented both in the plan making process and in development management.

The impact planners can make goes beyond the reduction of greenhouse gases, but in the successful mitigation of growing risks by building ‘climate resilience’, the ability to resist or recover from the adverse effects of climate change. In fact, research from LSE suggests that, of the councils that have declared a climate emergency, less than 12% mention adaptation.

We explore the concept of ‘climate resilience’ in our 2020 research paper, “Strategic Planning for Climate Resilience” where we identify climate risks to the Liverpool City Region and provide recommendations that are later implemented in their Spatial Development Strategy.

This month, we are looking to make climate change a significant focus of our upcoming Planner Live North event, A Northern Renaissance, on March 23rd and 24th. Mark Dickens, Lead Officer of Spatial Planning at Liverpool City Region, will be holding a keynote speech.

Mark has been instrumental in LCR’s development of its Spatial Development Strategy. On the second day of the event, Jeremy Purseglove will give a keynote speech on practical steps that can be taken to mitigate climate change. I will also be speaking in a session on “Addressing the Climate Crisis” further explaining the essential role that planners have. Find out more and book your tickets here.

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