Cities a key strategic target at COP27
The key message coming out of COP27 is that city wide improvements must be prioritised to significantly improve climate mitigation, while also increasing resilience to better manage adverse climate impacts.
Cities have been a key focus at COP27 for two reasons:
They produce about 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, making them a significant contributor to climate change.
Climate change is exposing cities to extreme affects including extreme weather events, climbing average temperatures and biodiversity loss.
At COP27, the UN launched SURGe (Sustainable Urban Resilience for the Next Generation) to encourage cities to share targets and co-create a holistic programme for climate adaption in urban areas. The focus is on decarbonisation, climate adaption, reaching nature-positivity, preserving culture all while promoting human and biodiversity health.
Further initiatives to improve cities include Beat the Heat: Nature for Cool Cities Challenge. Cities in developing countries are invited to participate in the challenge by pledging to increase nature based solutions in their urban areas by 2030 and demonstrate tangible progress by 2025. Participants will be supported via funding, technical assistance, partnership opportunities, and communications support.
The strategic focus on cities particularly in relation to resilience and decarbonisation will no doubt travel back with government leaders from all 196 nation states, making this in an interesting discussion point for UK local authorities, developers and other relevant institutions.
Increasing biodiversity in cities
The state of biodiversity both globally and the UK is not great. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 21 highlighted biodiversity loss as one of the biggest existential threats facing the planet over the next 5-10 years. A report from the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) states that 75% of the world’s land-based environment, and 66% of its marine environment, have been impacted by human actions. The same report indicates one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, potentially within decades.
One key target outlined at COP27 and in UK state publications such as the City of London Biodiversity Action Plan 2021-2026 is to increase biodiversity in cities both in the UK and globally.
Nigel Hewitson (Partner – Planning and Heritage) explains that biodiversity requirements are already impacting UK developers “In some senses UK domestic law and policy is ahead of the curve on biodiversity. The Environment Act 2021 introduced a requirement, which is anticipated to come into force in the course of 2023, for new developments to provide for a 10% increase in biodiversity over what was present on site prior to permission being granted. This is referred to as Biodiversity Net Gain or BNG. Many local authorities have, in advance of the change in the law, adopted policies on BNG and are already securing net gains on new developments. BNG will clearly often be easier to achieve on brownfield sites than on greenfield so this may become a driver for developers to favour brownfield sites. The other impact may well be on density. If space has to be set aside for biodiversity it may well be that less development can be got onto the site than would otherwise be the case.”
DJB Senior Partner Madeleine Davitt believes that this represents both a challenge and an opportunity: “Both national and local Government are already developing and implementing planning policy and legislation in support of more global frameworks on biodiversity and we can expect more as a result of discussions at COP27 and the upcoming Biodiversity COP15. The recent Government Property Sustainability Strategy also makes improving biodiversity in the Government estate a key part of their plans. I would therefore encourage the commercial real estate sector to begin looking at nature based solutions as an opportunity rather than an unnecessary cost or box-ticking exercise.”
Improving transport and transport infrastructure
The key focus on solutions day was transport, a priority given that transport is responsible for approximately 25% of global emissions.
The UK Government provided an update on the Zero Emissions Vehicles Declaration, one year after it launched at COP26. A total of 214 new signatories have signed the Declaration requiring them to develop plans to end the sale of light vehicles which are not zero-emission by 2035 in leading markets, and 2040 elsewhere.
The COP27 Presidency released an initiative call Low Carbon Transport for Urban Sustainability (LOTUS) aimed at decarbonising the global urban mobility landscape. Transport experts will attempt to transform urban mobility systems to decrease reliance on internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) and decarbonise public transport.
In further transport related news, The Collective for Clean Transport Finance was also launched with the aim of creating the tools to change risk profiles of investment in zero-emission transport. The Collective is launched by five leading organisations and the High-Level Climate Champions.
EV’s and transport improvements will form a key part of local and national discussions in the coming months and years. For more information on EV’s listen to the DJB Real World Podcast interview (parts 1 & 2) here.
A more comprehensive overview of COP27 can be found here: www.djblaw.co.uk/cop27
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