Creating Climate-Ready Places

RTPI Scotland Executive Committee Member Graham Marchbank reports from two recent events on planning for climate change

While the consultation on the White Paper  Places, People and Planning takes place, RTPI Scotland has given evidence in parliament on the draft Climate Change Plan (which will replace the ill-titled Report on Proposals and Policies 2) – setting targets out to 2032.  RTPI has also been monitoring new work on low carbon and climate change –  front and centre topics for development planning and development management if permitted development rights are to be rolled out further in those areas.

Sir David King, permanent Special Representative on Climate Change to the UK Government Foreign Secretary gave a lecture at Edinburgh University on 30 January 2017.  His stark warning – if any more were needed – was that tackling rising temperatures caused by carbon emissions has to happen now.  This was a global perspective and reflection on sea level rises, ice cap shrinkage, flood risk to far east crops and so on.  Two-thirds of our carbon budget on limiting warming to a 1.5 degree C rise is already used up.  Land use change is the turnaround issue.  In conversation he said that alongside reafforestation and better crop productivity he felt we needed densities akin to medieval city development – more Hong Kongs, fewer Houstons.

Scotland is doing relatively well on decarbonising electricity production but there’s more to do on energy efficiency, transport emissions and other technologies aiding climate mitigation and climate adaptation.

It was therefore timely that a Climate Conversations event held on 2 March at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation hosted by Climate Exchange showed how to bring climate change to wider sometimes marginalised audiences, particularly communities.

Enhancing community participation is a major talking point in the White Paper.  Many planning authorities are making use of the Place Standard Tool to generate grass-roots ideas about place-making at charettes or at events to inform plan preparation.

One of the segments of the tool – sadly added late on – but there now nevertheless – is to hold a discussion on a Climate-Ready Place.  This is already yielding a better understanding of the difference between mitigation and adaptation; spotting the signs and addressing the competing priorities for land use change locally.

A climate conversation can structure quick outputs for the Climate-Ready Place part of place-making discussions.  It is activity and scenario-based and aimed at people new to discussing the topic. It leads in with participants’ thoughts on a series of pictures of landscapes, urban situations and the people in them.  There are nine scenarios in all in the conversation, for example the carbon footprint of the weekly shop.  For planning: designing streets and community energy stand out and potentially allow for a tailored approach to a conversation.  There was some criticism about the nine scenarios not being radical enough.

With only so much time to squeeze in a conversation at a typical evening event, the feeling in the room was that a Climate Conversation would need to sit alongside other crucial place-making topics such as sustainability, housing and so on.  But it is a good start.

The ‘How To’ guide for those interested in trying it out is at http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0050/00505875.pdf

Adaptation Scotland has also published an interim impact report on a three year programme to support climate change resilience; providing advice and support to help organisations, businesses and communities.

Parliament has yet to consider the draft Energy Strategy which will be an equally important component of the way we shape our approach to planning new development.

The views are those of the author

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