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Better Planning: Climate change

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Climate change is one of the most crucial issues facing our communities today, and the increasing occurrence of severe climate-change related weather events is just a reminder of the urgency of this issue. Climate change, like planning, requires us to take a long-term and spatial view.


Venn Diagram


Climate justice and resilience

Climate justice

Our work on climate change is orientated around the concept of 'climate justice', which Wikipedia defines as; '...a term used for framing global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature.'

The concept thus focuses attention on the distributional impacts of climate change, and the varying abilities of communities to respond to the challenges (and sometimes even advantages) it brings - whether a result of local circumstances or politics and policy.

Without considering these aspects our response to climate change, at any scale, will be insufficient. Indeed, evidence suggests that disadvantaged communities globally and domestically contribute less to global warming, while disproporationately suffering from its effects, and recieving proportionately less government aid to mitigate and adapt to them.

Planning must be at the heart of society's responses to social inequality and climate change

Effective spatial planning has a crucial role in responding both to social inequality (as we have previously argued) and climate change. In the Venn diagram of societal responses to climate change on one hand, and addressing social inequality on the other, spatial planning sits directly in the overlap. One is not possible without the other, and effective spatial planning is integral to both.

In the Venn diagram of societal responses to climate change on one hand, and addressing social inequality on the other, spatial planning sits directly in the overlap.


Outputs and progress

A series of position papers

Over the course of the next year we will produce a series of short position papers, outlining the latest research and  'RTPI view' on key concepts relating to climate justice and planning for climate change.

The first, which will introduce this terms and outline our work programme and planned project outputs, will be published in May 2019. Subsequent papers will cover topics such as 'resilience', mitigation and adapation, the relationship between decentralisation and planning for climate change, and the Sustainable Development Goals.

A new approach to RTPI research; 'action research' and strategic planning for climate resilience

Climate justice's emphasis on the distributional aspects of climate change means that local resourcing and capacity are core concerns of this project. Indeed, under-resourcing in local planning departments is a key barrier to effective planning for climate change, and methods for building capacity will be central to any recommendations we make.

We are using a novel action research' approach to this research, in which we are working directly with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority to help them develop  climate resilience policy for their Spatial Development Strategy, learn about the practical challenges they face in producing strategic planning policy for climate resilience, and build capacity in the region.

You can find out more about this research in this article.


Supported and related projects

Alongside the main Better Planning work stream we are supporting and commissioning a serious of projects more broadly related to the themes of climate change and the environment. These include:

  • Rising to the Climate Crisis: A Guide for Local Authorities on Planning for Climate Change

    Produced jointly with the Town and Country Planning Association, and updated in December 2018 following the publication of NPPF 2, this comprehensive guide gives politicians and planners the knowledge and confidence to tackle climate change and improve resilience. It is designed to inform the preparation of strategic and local development plans being prepared by local and combined authorities in England.

  • Planning for Climate Change: A Law and Policy Briefing

    This 2-page briefing provides a concise summary of the law, policy and guidance which enables and requires planning authorities to take action on climate change through their plans.
  • Planning for a Smart Energy Future

    'Smart' energy grids have the potential to decentralise power - in terms of both energy and socially - by supporting a more sustainable energy mix, electric and driverless vehicle networks, new communications technologies, and more equitable forms of energy production and distribution, amongst other things.

    However, if planning policy and practice fail to keep up with change they can be seen as a barrier to, rather than an enabler of, innovation in this area. Funded by RTPI South West and being delivered by the specialist not-for-profit Regen, this research explores how the planning system can take a proactive, foward-looking and positive approach to supporting the UK's transition to a smart energy future.



This work is being led by Dr Daniel Slade, who you can reach on 0207 929 9496, or at @_DSlade and