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Thoughts on Copenhagen: Pooran Desai

Governments must encourage buildings that enable a new way of life – with access to local food, recycling facilities and no cars, says Pooran Desai

The UK’s lead on climate-change policy is to be applauded but we are a long way from meeting our targets. We currently consume renewable resources 30 per cent faster than the planet replenishes them. To address this challenge, BioRegional has been working with partners around the world to create a network of sustainable communities which we call One Planet Living. 

Invited by the Danish Society for Nature Conservation, BioRegional Development Group will attend COP15. We will be leading a call to action for:

  • Individuals to look at their carbon footprints.
  • Governments to establish carbon budgets (as the UK government has done) consistent with bringing CO2and other greenhouse gases within safe limits.
  • Governments to establish coherent policies to drive a move to a sustainable economy.

One Planet Living is affordable and deliverable now. It is not simply about constructing greener buildings, but enabling a way of life which reduces car dependence, provides easy access to local, seasonal food and makes recycling easy. This is exemplified by One Brighton, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ new zero-carbon residential community. It has rooftop allotments, a biomass boiler and on-site composter, and it was constructed within a conventional cost envelope. 

The UK’s current piecemeal approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions won’t work. Proposals for zero-carbon buildings are over complicated with arbitrary ‘carbon compliance’ levels (which are not zero carbon) and ‘allowable solutions’ which are bureaucratic and unworkable.

The UK’s current piecemeal approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions won’t work

To achieve effective change, we need elegant solutions and a sensible systems-based approach to zero carbon; for example, recognising electricity as a pooled resource and not unnecessarily converting buildings into power stations. Land use is as critical as carbon emissions.

Experience of living at [South London sustainable development] BedZED since its inception in 2002 has convinced me that the only way to achieve targets is to tackle sustainability in a holistic way which integrates the built environment, transport and food provision. Buildings are only part of the solution; places and lifestyle are just as important. That is why I call for rooftop allotments with sea views.

Pooran Desai is international director of BioRegional One Planet Communities and sustainability director of BioRegional Quintain Ltd. Visit www.bioregional.com to create a One Planet Action Plan. ‘One Planet Communities’ (John Wiley, £24.99) by Pooran Desai is out in November

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