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Cleaner, Safer, Greener (RSS)

Reducing CO2 emissions at home

I'm making a speech to the Green Alliance on 17 May.

At present the domestic sector contributes to around 27% of total CO2 emissions in the UK - from energy used in homes to provide heating, hot water, lighting and electricity for appliances. 

So housing developers, planners, local authorities and energy suppliers all have their role to play in shaping people's choice - in minimising both bills and environmental impacts.

To hit a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions on 1990 levels by 2050 – the recommendation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change –a proportionate reduction of domestic emissions would mean dropping from 42.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year in 1990 to 17 million tonnes per year in 2050. 

This means thinking from the roots up about the way we all make decisions about energy consumption and energy efficiency. 

I will be discussing some of the ways to get from here to there in my speech - I'd be really grateful for feedback in the meantime.

Until next week...Happy Easter!

posted by David Miliband on 13 Apr 06 with 5 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

BIDding for devolution

Both Philadelphia and Baltimore have used Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) as a route to double devolution. BIDs are essentially voluntary neighbourhood business-led coalitions that make neighbourhoods a better place to do business.

There are nearly 1000 in the US. In the UK the take-up has been slower. 

BIDs are not primarily about money, though in all cases a small levy is made on the business rate. In Philadelphia the BID has moved from an agenda of safer/greener neighbourhoods to take on the night economy, housing and now schools. They have even sponsored a community court that has cut reoffending rates for people arrested.

posted by David Miliband on 06 Apr 06 with 2 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Climate change

Bill Clinton said in London yesterday (in a speech at the Smith Institute) that while terrorism could kill large numbers of people, it could never wipe out a civilisation, but that global warming could. 

It is a long way from the apocalypse to low energy lightbulbs, radiator thermostats, and Part L of the Building Regulations (which deals with conserving fuel and power). But the link needs to be made.

The recent rise in emissions promoted by the rise in oil and gas prices (and the shift of electricity generators to coal) shows the importance of a few big decisions. 

But millions of small decisions are also important.  The challenge for government is to help individuals bridge the gap between intuition and action; the experiment of offering £50 or £100 council tax discounts for energy efficiency measures currently being piloted in 16 local authorities is one example. 

The commitment to put a Home Energy Efficiency report in every Home Information Pack is another. 

And the higher standards of energy efficiency in new homes like the Northstowe development of 10,000 houses in Cambridge is a further case study. 

But we need to find other ways to motivate action. 

I will be discussing these and other ideas in a speech to the Green Alliance in May.

posted by David Miliband on 29 Mar 06 with 4 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Making space in cities

We lived in Leeds for a while when I was a child. Whenever we'd drive past the Town Hall, my dad would tell us that the magnificent building - I particularly liked the statues of the lions - showed the pride its Victorian founders had had in their city.

I have been sent a thoughtful book called Transforming Cities: Revival in the Square by Nick Corbett, which takes this simple idea - pride in the public realm - and applies the concept to public space.

A lot of the excitement about modern urban renewal is focused on new buildings - the Sage in Gateshead; the Bullring in Birmingham...

But the argument of the book is that healthy communities depend on shared space and not just shared buildings. (By contrast tyrannical regimes tend to hate the idea of public shared space: the book points out that General Franco placed strict rules and control over the use of public squares).

Public space creates community - from public art to cafe culture.

The planning system gives Local Authorities the power to make a difference, and they need to use it.

posted by David Miliband on 22 Mar 06 with 6 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Cleaner, Safer, Greener

I am speaking today at a conference of local authorities and partners involved in the drive to maximise the impact of local initiatives for improving  ‘liveability'.

The drive to 'get local' was started not after the 2005 General Election, but in April 2001 when the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of making communities clean, safe and green if we are to avoid the warning of JK Galbraith that we are to live with private affluence and public squalor. 

The push to improve local environments goes to the heart of the drive for citizen empowerment: nothing gets people more heated than a poor local environment, and few things are as likely to motivate them to action. That is why the engagement of local authorities in this agenda is so important. 

posted by David Miliband on 13 Mar 06 with 2 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

The National Trust: from historic properties to new homes

Not many people think of the National Trust as a housing developer – but it is a major landowner and it is showing how to put environmental and design principles into practice on a 700 house development, Stamford Brook, near Altrincham. The Trust is using 2.5% of a 3000 acre estate for development, with the revenue used for the upkeep of the rest of the estate.

The Trust has gone into partnership with Redrow and Bryant Homes in order to, according to the Trust,

"demonstrate that large developments by volume housebuilders can spearhead more sustainable living through key initiatives such as energy efficiency, water conservation, recycling and waste minimisation." 

The project will also improve the local environment with a new river scheme. These kind of projects are vital to establish a new set of expectations about what is possible, and to maximise the contribution of housing to energy efficiency and protection of the environment. 

The ODPM will be engaging in a major examination of its work over the rest of this year to ensure that we play our part in the Government’s climate change commitments.

posted by David Miliband on 08 Mar 06 with 0 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Green China


The challenge of rethinking our approach to housing and economic development to meet the climate change challenge may seem like a big change, but our scale is small compared to the emerging economies in China and India. 

A new Arup project in Dongtan, China, visited by John Prescott last month, shows what could be possible. The project team is creating a new city on a carbon-neutral basis.

The Chinese authorities have selected Arup to develop the masterplan for the new 'eco city' of Dontang to shift from an environmentally unsustainable model of development. Dongtan will be a city of three villages. Phase one should be completed by 2010, in time for the World Expo in Shanghai, and will accommodate a population of 50,000, rising to a projected 500,000 by 2040. Dongtan will be self-supporting, generating all its energy needs, including transport, from renewables and will have zero emissions from the tailpipes of vehicles.

The city region will supply the bulk of its energy from wind turbines, bio-fuels and recycling organic material. An Energy Centre will contain the energy supply centre for the entire city of Dongtan. Most of the city's waste will be recycled and organic waste will be composted or used as bio-mass for energy production. There will be no landfill of waste and human sewage will be processed for irrigation and composting.

A combination of traditional and innovative building technologies will reduce energy requirements associated with heating and cooling of buildings by up to 70%.  Dongtan will be a city linked by a combination of cycle-paths, pedestrian routes and varied modes of public transport, including buses and water-taxis.

You get the picture.  Arup believe this is transferable to the UK. The Thames Gateway will help us to find out.

posted by David Miliband on 07 Mar 06 with 1 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Boys and their cars

In case anyone was wondering my Government car is a Toyota Prius...

posted by David Miliband on 23 Feb 06 with 0 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Climate change and ODPM

I was pleased at the LGA Sustainable Communities conference on Tuesday to highlight the environmental angle to the ODPM’s agenda. 

Building and planning has a big role to play, not just in coping with the risks of climate change but also preventing it. 

Critically if one looks at a 40 year timescale, up til 2050 when it is estimated we need a 60% cut in CO2 emissions to stabilise carbon content in the atmosphere, then the multiplier effects of year on year improvements in energy efficiency – and the economics of higher energy standards – are transformed. 

This is something that the ODPM will be working hard on over the next 6 months.

posted by David Miliband on 17 Feb 06 with 0 Comments (view/add) | Permalink

Environmental homes

As energy prices rise the issue of the environmental sustainability of the built environment becomes more and more important - for the domestic consumer and for government seeking efficiency in the public sector. 

The latest building regulations promote a 40% improvement in energy efficiency of new buildings, but we are determined to make progress across the ODPM's policy agenda. 

There is a lot going on - led by local authority recycling schemes that are widely popular.  But we are determined to look at our programmes from top to bottom. 

If you have ideas please do add your comments.

posted by David Miliband on 10 Feb 06 with 0 Comments (view/add) | Permalink