Tackling climate change is one of the greatest challenges that we face as a society. The environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change are already being felt and they will continue to grow in severity. CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, gas and petrol are the biggest contributory factor at 85% though there are other potent greenhouse gases especially connected with food growing, transportation, disposal and refrigeration/cooling.
Preventing man-made climate change is challenging. We have a long way to go before the dramatic reductions required can be achieved.
In England and Wales, the Climate Change Act 2008 set an 80% carbon emissions reduction target by 2050 and a 35% reduction by 2020. Locally, Brighton & Hove have set a 42% target for 2020 and the recently published performance figure for the city for 2014 of 33.4% suggests that we are on track to achieve this target. However, measuring our per capita carbon reduction performance against 16 other comparable cities nationally we are only 8th and this is generally much higher than the average UK resident’s.
An analysis of this shows the following areas have most impact:
- The city housing stock is old with 66% built before 1945. This sector currently represents 40% of our carbon emissions
- Use of cars - fuel consumption, vehicle purchase and maintenance
- Food, eaten in the home and provided in the hospitality sector
- Consumption of consumer goods, in particular household appliances
The City Sustainability Action Plan brings together a portfolio of work across the city that works to address this. It sets out high level objectives in key areas such as energy, food and transport, supported by ambitious projects aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the city. Some of the areas include:
- Projects to reduce energy consumption in our homes and buildings.
- Street lighting conversion programme converting all street lanterns to energy efficient LED lighting.
- Increasing the implementation of renewable energy technologies
- Supporting low carbon modes of transport and reducing the need to travel
- Promoting and encouraging local food production and a reduction in food waste
Many of our homes, buildings, businesses and services need to be much more energy efficient and make more use of renewable energy. With such old housing stock in the city, addressing fuel poverty continues to remain a challenge. In 2014 fuel poverty in Brighton & Hove was estimated to affect 12.3% of households, higher than the South East average.
Uptake of renewable energy in the city is still relatively slow, despite an excellent solar energy resource – one of the best in the country. Whilst the incentive for renewably generated electricity offered through the Feed in Tariff has reduced, the business case for solar photovoltaics is still good.
Achieving sustainable development is a major objective of the City Plan. The city’s housing target in the City Plan Part One is to build at least 13,200 new homes over the period to 2030, and these need to be delivered sustainably. The adopted City Plan Policy CP8 Sustainable Buildings sets the minimum standards for new development. At the same time 42% of the city’s carbon footprint comes from existing housing, so there is even greater pressure to reduce emissions from this stock.
Since adoption of City Plan Part One, all planning applicants have been expected to deliver low carbon design in advance of current national standards unless this is not technically or financially viable. As part of this they must demonstrate how energy efficiency has been maximised and low and zero carbon energy technologies have been incorporated into designs to deliver reduced carbon emissions and fossil fuel energy. City Plan Part Two will develop further policy to incentivise carbon reduction in new and existing development, exploring in particular decentralised, smart, renewable energy systems.
Heat networks are continuing to increase in the city, with planned expansion of existing schemes at the Universities and Royal Sussex County Hospital and new heat networks coming forward at all major strategic development sites with proposed development.