UK Government 25 Year Environment Plan is … disappointing.

nature globeThe UK Governments 25 Year Environment Plan (A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment) released yesterday should, on the face of it be a very significant document. Leaks and pre-issue comments from Gove in particular, hinted at great things in respect to addressing plastic, aligning health benefits of nature with healthcare and restoring nature in light of housing and infrastructure developments.

The Plan identifies six key areas:
Using and managing land sustainably (chapter 1).
Recovering nature and enhancing the beauty of landscapes (chapter 2).
Connecting people with the environment to improve health and wellbeing (chapter 3).
Increasing resource efficiency, and reducing pollution and waste (chapter 4).
Securing clean, productive and biologically diverse seas and oceans (chapter 5).
Protecting and improving the global environment (chapter 6).

And of note for the built environment,

‘Embed an ‘environmental net gain’ principle for development, including housing and infrastructure. (Chapter One)

High environmental standards for all new builds. New homes will be built in a way that reduces demands for water, energy and material resources, improves flood resilience, minimises overheating and encourages walking and cycling. Resilient buildings and infrastructure will more readily adapt to a changing climate.

And, to improve existing green infrastructure by encouraging more investment while making sure there is a presumption for sustainable development.

However what we have is low on ambition and nothing more than a plan to plan. Each action is peppered with “consider”, “explore”, “promote”, “help” etc … and to work with others if they would care to.

25 yr plan quote

The fact this is a 25 year plan, in 2018, it takes us through to 2043 – firmly into the next generation that will undoubtedly be severely compromised by what we do or don’t do today.  One only has to compare other initiatives with target dates within this timeframe to see how low on intent this plan is. Compare with the WorldGBC plans for zero carbon new buildings by 2030 and all buildings zero carbon by 2050, or the auto industry to move away from fossil fuels.

As commented by many, there is an ‘extraordinary omission’ in the plan: there is no mention at all of fracking. Given that the only sustained solution to the environmental and climate crisis is leaving fossil fuels in the ground, the continued support for extracting yet more through fracking cannot be justified in the light of the this report.

We are now acutely aware that  we do not have the luxury only to explore, to consider and to just reduce impacts … that is not sustainable. We require more direct leadership, commitment and action to do more good, to restore and regenerate the environment.

George Monbiot commented ‘ Those who wrote (the plan) are aware of the multiple crises we face. But, having laid out the depth and breadth of our predicaments, they propose to do almost nothing about them”

Stephanie Hilborne, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, “unless more leadership is shown, wildlife will continue to decline & with it our mental health as more people become isolated from benefits of contact with nature’

What we do have however, and should take action on, is further recognition that the environment  and connection with nature is severely affecting the health of the planet, of ourselves and of other species. Gove is trying to secure commitment to an Environment Act in the next Queen’s speech and we should help to secure this as there is not yet full government support, but there certainly needs to be more leadership, direct action and targets in this 25 year plan.

The Plan is available to download from here 

Ecologically Rethinking Construction

Jonathan Dawson, head of economics at Schumacher College, writing on Guardian Sustainable Business asked “How do we redesign a new economic theory framed by ecological systems?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA question we need to ask and start addressing within the built environment.

We are seeing a new vocabulary emerging with concepts such as biomimicry, zero or net energy, water and environmental impact, Living Buildings, biophillia, circular economy … and more … As the interest and importance of these concepts influence in the way we design, build and use buildings, do we need a new paradigm?  Some 15 years after Egan, do we need to again rethink construction to address these emergent sustainability themes. approaches and skills that once again the sector is lacking, engaging the economists, surveyors and accountants? As Jonathan Dawson comments:

Ecology offers the insight that the economy is best understood as a complex adaptive system, more a garden to be lovingly observed and tended than a machine to be regulated by mathematically calculable formulae.

A comment that makes a nice resonance with the Living Building Challenge philosophy

And of course a key element in this new thinking is the internet, web 2.0 and the power of social media.

Enabled by the growing power of information technology, whole new ways of doing business and organising society are emerging, whose strength lies not in economies of scale but in economies of co-operation and symbiosis

Over the weekend , via twitter I caught a slide via Rachel Armstrong illustrating the difference and need to move from 20th century Cartesian or Newtonian thinking into 21st complexity, emergent thinking …

screenshot.32

Jonathan Dawson: “This moment of history calls on us to rewrite the dictionary and create new stories, much as the generations following on from Copernicus did to reflect the new world-view that emerged from his astronomical insights”

Construction Carbon Cost and Risk Management

Having effective scenario planning in place within a construction business is essential to developing effective forward looking strategies that protect the business into the future and provide resilience against change.

One of our current uncertainties is related to the price of carbon, and how once the price of carbon has been fixed, how that will impact your business and project costs. It is now only a matter of time before carbon costing becomes established as an indicator and ‘repayment’ cost for your environmental impact

As with the increase cost of waste management over the last decade or so, cost of carbon will, most likely be a supply risk and cost.

The concept of shadow pricing is not new, (based on the lifetime damage costs associated with greenhouse gas emissions)  Applying a shadow cost to your carbon emissions now will enable you to action plan and reduce carbons, reducing exposure to future costs  hitting your business.

A good place to start is through measuring and understanding your project construction carbons with Constructco2 and then applying a carbon cost of £10 per tonne.  If you haven’t measured your construction carbons as yet (why not?) then use the ConstructCO2 benchmark of 96.7 Kg/£K project spend.

How would that cost affect your business? How would you manage projects with this additional cost, and importantly what actions would you take to reduce your project emissions?

Perhaps we should be asking the question will you start?

Many of the contractors, clients and subcontractors we support through constructco2 are seeing cost and bidding benefits. (More)

Useful Background Reading:

Based on recent Huffington Post article  The Benefits of Carbon Shadow Pricing Tyler Elm and Jim Harris

DECC: Carbon Valuation