Initial Report: Global Challenge, Local Action
The Commission was established by the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority to provide independent advice to local government, the broader public sector and business in the area on both setting and meeting carbon reduction targets for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and preparing for climate change. The commission has now published its first report (see here) which sets out in clear detail the likely effect of climate change on the area of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority (CPCA) based on commissioned scientific research.
The report points out that there is little time left to take action to achieve “Net Zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In the CPCA area, emissions are approximately 25% higher per person than the UK average. At this level of emissions we have only about 6 years remaining before we will have exhausted all of our ‘allowed’ share of emissions to 2050 if we are to play an equal part in achieving this target. Major changes to planning policy will be called for, given that the current Local Plans for Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire are supposed to run until 2031 and will need, therefore, to be reviewed.
Effects of climate change
The commission describes the likely effect of climate change on the area of the CPCA. Roasting hot summers, heavier rainfall in the winter but less in the summer. The area is particularly vulnerable; 40% being below sea level with commensurate risks of increased flooding. Water supply is a critical issue. All aspects of industry and agriculture will be affected, in addition to the effect on the health and wellbeing of the people and the need to protect and enhance biodiversity and the natural environment generally.
It is recommended that the combined authority should aim for Net Zero as early as 2030. Investment in measures to mitigate the effect of climate change and to adapt to it will need to rise in the CPCA area to £700M per annum.
Within the CPCA area transport is the main culprit. The aim should be to switch to emission free vehicles. Housing will need to be retrofitted to make living in it tolerable in the new conditions. Heating and ventilation systems will need to be replaced.
The picture painted by the report must be seen against the ambitions of central and local government to achieve substantial economic growth in the area of the CPCA, not forgetting the Cambridge-Oxford “Arc”. Central government should review its ideas on the reform of the planning system as set out in the Planning White Paper of last August.
If the report of the commission has any weakness it is in its ideas of how the changes it recommends can be funded and implemented in time. In this the commission must be up against the way central and local government in this country is organised.
This short note cannot do justice to this important report. It should be compulsory reading for all decision makers both in local government and in the private sector. The commission aims to publish its second and final report later in the year.