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Sustainable transport should be embedded in levelling up bill, says CCC

Words: Laura Edgar
Net zero carbon / iStock-455437679

The Climate Change Committee has urged the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to embed sustainable transport in the levelling up and regeneration bill in its progress report, published today (29 June).

This is listed as a priority recommendation in the 600-page assessment.

The report outlines that the DLUHC has a "key role" in supporting local government to play its role in the net zero transition and climate adaptation, as well as ensuring both are embedded in the planning reforms and levelling up.

It features more than 300 recommendations for setting out policies over the next year, directed at individual government departments, countries and government regulators. They include the suggestion that it is essential that the DLUHC implements the Future Homes and Buildings Standards are successfully by 2025, that these support the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy's (BEIS) work to decarbonise buildings. This, the report suggests, could be through planning, measurement, standards enforcement and compliance.

The committee applauded the government when it launched it net zero strategy and set targets last year. Progress in Reducing Emissions: 2022 Report to Parliament, though, finds there is "scant evidence" of delivery.

"There are some bright spots of progress, but in most areas the likelihood of under-delivery is high," says the committee.

Lord Deben, chair of the CCC, said: “The UK is a champion in setting new climate goals, now we must be world-beaters in delivering them. In the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the country is crying out to end its dependence on expensive fossil fuels. I welcome the government’s restated commitment to net zero, but holes must be plugged in its strategy urgently. The window to deliver real progress is short. We are eagle-eyed for the promised action.”

The report notes that emissions in the UK are 47 per cent lower than in 1990. They rose by 4 per cent in 2021, but were still 10 per cent lower than the level in 2019.

The committee also notes that the government's strongest areas of progress and "well-designed" government policy are deployment of renewable electricity and take up of electric cars. However, there is a lack of policy to guide the private sector to make homes more energy efficient, a major weakness in the UK's net zero strategy.

The CCC cites agriculture and land use as having the "weakest" policies despite "being vital to delivering Net Zero and the government’s other goals on food security and biodiversity".

In addition, the committee warns that the current Net Zero Strategy will not deliver net zero. It says: "Credible government plans exist for over a third of the UK’s required emissions reductions to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget in the mid-2030s; with a fair wind we will manage another quarter; and over a third cannot be relied on to deliver the necessary emissions reductions."

The committee warns that homes continue to be built on floodplains without appropriate systems in place to address increased flood risks and that if they continue to be built on such land at the current rate, the funding required to build and maintain defences will go up. It states that a more "forward-looking" outlook on flood risk is required for new developments and that all types of flood risk should be included in policies guiding new development. "The government should ensure that the planning system incentivises ‘green’ Sustainable Drainage Systems. Where homes are built in areas at risk of surface water flooding, they should receive expert flood mitigation advice."

The committee believes the UK's success in delivering net zero will be an important example of what can be achieved and will serve as a template for other countries to draw on. "Effective delivery of Net Zero will be needed across the world if the Glasgow Climate Pact is to have the legacy that the UK aimed for at COP26 last year," says the committee.

Recommendations in Progress in Reducing Emissions: 2022 Report to Parliament include:

  • Embed sustainable transport within planning reform in the upcoming levelling up and regeneration bill. This should recognise the role that place-shaping, active travel, public transport, and shared mobility can combine to play in reducing car dependence and realising a range of co-benefits. These factors should be required to be considered from the outset of all development planning.
  • Clarify plans and responsibilities for electrification of oil and gas infrastructure through integration with the offshore wind planning process and/or onshore grid, so that by 2027 new oil and gas platforms can achieve zero emissions from operational energy use.
  • Close loopholes allowing homes to be built which do not meet the current minimum standards for new dwellings. This includes provisions around the expiry of planning permission and permitted development rights relating to change of use. Make accurate performance testing and reporting widespread, committing developers to the standards they advertise.
  • Confirm the position of the draft National Planning Statement for Renewables which states that further energy-from-waste plants should only be built where they can be demonstrated to be consistent with residual waste capacity needs and the waste hierarchy, and set out how these assessments will be made. Any new EfW plants (not currently under construction) should also be required to demonstrate readiness for carbon capture deployment.
  • Set out a plan to make an assessment of whole-life carbon and material use of public and private construction projects mandatory by 2025, to enable minimum standards to be set. The whole life carbon assessment should be sought at the planning stage to enable efforts to reduce embodied carbon and materials.
  • Ensure all of DLUHC's own policy decisions, planning decisions and procurement decisions are consistent with the net zero goal and reflect the latest understanding of climate risks.
  • Make clear the importance of ensuring that all developments consider how best to minimise lifetime emissions and adapt to climate change as part of the planning process. This should be achieved by embedding net zero alignment as a core requirement within the planning reforms in the upcoming levelling up and regeneration bill and the supporting frameworks and guidance documents.
  • Wales: Building on the plans set out in Net Zero Wales Carbon Budget 2, publish a long-term strategy, setting out a pathway up until 2050 for decarbonising buildings with key policy milestones and targets for low-carbon heating and energy efficiency roll-out. This should include policies to support low-carbon heating across all of the building stock, including how Wales will transition away from fossil fuel heating and ensure local actors are able to conduct spatial planning for heat networks.
  • Scotland: Scale up action to deliver targets across all sectors in line with the ambition set out in the recent Climate Change Plan update.
  • Northern Ireland: Publish the decarbonising heat consultation and follow on with a coherent, long-term strategy for heat and energy efficiency in Northern Ireland’s homes and other buildings; encompassing regulatory, policy and funding commitments to facilitate delivery.

The report and more information can be found on the Climate Change Committee website.

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