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Climate change committee calls for review of national planning policy

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Planning policy should be changed to ensure projects are only approved when strict national carbon targets have been taken into account, a panel of experts has urged

The independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) called for the government to review the overarching National Planning Policy Framework to ensure consistency with the target of eliminating net carbon emissions by 2050.

Outgoing prime minister Theresa May last year passed legislation committing the UK to producing no more carbon emissions than it removes by the middle of this century.

But in a report published this week, the CCC said the 12 months since those laws were passed were ‘not the year of policy progress’ it had called for.

‘That is in part a result of the public health crisis taking priority in recent months, but policy development had already been delayed ahead of the general election,’ said the report. ‘Much more will be required from the government in this parliament.’

The committee, chaired by former environment secretary Lord Deben, called for a ‘step change’ in policy relating to carbon emissions from buildings.

‘Efforts to reduce emissions must be integrated with efforts to improve the safety and resilience of buildings, indoor air quality and efforts to tackle fuel poverty,’ said the report.

It called for the Buildings and Heat Strategy, planned for later this year, to set a clear direction towards phasing out installation of new gas boilers by 2035.

This should be supported by tax changes that favour low-carbon heating over fossil fuels and capital grants for green kit, said the report.

‘Commercial buildings must also be addressed and the public sector should take a lead,’ it added. ‘Embedded emissions, which include emissions from the construction process and the materials used in buildings, must also be tackled.’

UK Green Building Council chief executive Julie Hirigoyen welcomed the committee’s focus on buildings.

‘Coronavirus has transformed the context of our race to net zero and the government must now focus on directing economic stimulus spending towards areas that align with meeting our emissions target,’ she said.

‘The built environment is consistently cited as one of the key levers that can address all three priorities at once: jobs, climate and health. We fully support the CCC’s calls for the government to integrate net zero into all policy-making and ensure procurement strategies are consistent with the UK’s climate objectives.’ 

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