Responding to climate change
There is now consensus that global warming is a reality and that it will have a profound impact on the way we live and the kinds of houses and neighbourhoods we need.
The success of this agenda will depend on:
- building technologies and techniques that support low greenhouse gas emissions
- increasing use of renewable energy
- neighbourhood designs and services that promote low impact lifestyles
- changes in resident behaviour to adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles.
The Climate Change Act, 2008 has introduced an ambitious long-term target to reduce the country's greenhouse gas (not just carbon) emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. It contains a number of powers and provisions that are relevant to the new settlements programme.
Standards for new housing
The Code for Sustainable Homes introduces minimum standards for new housing - relating to carbon emissions, water run off, space and accessibility. The Code measures the sustainability of a home against key design categories, rating the 'whole home' as a complete package. New homes can achieve a rating on a scale of one to six 'Code Levels' depending on the standard achieved. The new CSH and other requirements will be reflected in the Building Regulations Part L.
All new built homes in England will require a Code rating. By 2013 all new homes will be required to meet Code level 3 - with this standard applying immediately for homes that include an element of public investment. All housing will have to achieve the highest level, Code 6 level, by 2016.
These requirements are a floor, not a ceiling. The new settlements provide many opportunities for innovation in low carbon design and lifestyles, and those involved in building the new settlements should seek to achieve higher code levels than those required.
Measures for existing housing
There are now a range of policy instruments for improving the energy efficiency of existing homes. Where new settlements are being built adjacent to existing homes, or where the new development is part of a regeneration scheme, these measures may also be employed to improve people's quality of life and reduce green house gas emissions. These include:
- Community Energy Reduction Target (CERT) - an energy efficiency programme aimed at promoting the use of domestic energy efficient installations by private homeowners
- Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) - offers free and discounted central heating and energy efficiency measures to vulnerable households living in certain disadvantaged areas only
- Warm Front Programme - providing small grants to private homeowners for insulation and heating improvements
- Other energy saving devices such as low energy lightbulbs, real time displays and energy saverplugs are also available. 11 million lower income and pensioner households qualify for these free of charge.
The eco-towns concept is designed to assist in meeting the twin challenges of providing additional housing and mitigating and adapting to climate change. The eco-towns programme is designed to support a limited number of exemplar schemes to demonstrate how we can live in a low carbon future.
Eco-towns will be new settlements that have the necessary services to establish their own character and identity. They will have a minimum of 5000 homes and could be much larger - they will need to be sufficiently large to have the critical mass necessary to deliver much higher standards of sustainability embracing biodiversity, climate change, adaptation, employment, flood risk management, green infrastructure, homes, local services, transport, waste, water and zero carbon. They will be separate and distinct but well linked to larger centres.
The Eco-towns Prospectus sets out five essential requirements for eco-towns, against which proposals for eco-towns are judged - and on which decisions about whether they will go ahead are made. These are:
- Eco-towns must be new settlements, separate and distinct from existing towns but well linked to them. They need to be additional to existing plans, with a minimum target of 5,000-10,000 homes
- The development as a whole should reach zero carbon standards, and each town should be an exemplar in at least one area of environmental sustainability
- Eco-town proposals should provide for a good range of facilities within the town - a secondary school, a medium scale retail centre, good quality business space and leisure facilities
- Affordable housing should make up between 30 and 50 per cent of the total through a wide range and distribution of tenures in mixed communities, with a particular emphasis on larger family homes
- Have a management body which will help develop the town, provide support for people and businesses moving to the new community, co‑ordinate delivery of services and manage facilities.
Eco-towns are being integrated into the statutory planning process. A new Planning Policy Statement for eco-towns, will be published (supplementing PPS1: Delivering Sustainable Development) that promotes the development of exemplar projects and provide a showcase for sustainable living, providing inspiration for future development.
Key provisions of the Climate Change Act 2008
The act introduced:
- a legally binding target - for green house gas emission reductions at least 80% by 2050 and reductions in CO2 emissions of at least 26% by 2020 (against a 1990 baseline) through action in the UK and abroad.
- A carbon budgeting system which caps emissions over five year periods to set out our trajectory to 2050.
- The creation of the Committee on Climate Change, a new independent, expert body to advise Government on the level of carbon budgets and where cost effective savings could be made.
- Powers to introduce domestic emissions trading schemes more quickly and easily through secondary legislation
- Measures on biofuels
- Powers to introduce pilot financial incentive schemes in England for household waste
- Powers to require a minimum charge for single-use carrier bags
- New powers to support the creation of a Community Energy Savings Programme, by extending the existing Carbon Emissions Reduction Target scheme to electricity generators).