Climate Change Global Digest Autumn 2020

Jane Manning with Julie Futcher, Joanna Wright and Mitch Cooke
Paris Expo Porte de Versailles urban farm. Photo by Stephane Compoint, Bureau233

The implications of the current pandemic on the climate crisis continue to dominate debate and research, in particular, the degree to which the pandemic might allow more significant gains to be made with respect to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This article highlights some of the most interesting early findings and the projects leading the way.

EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY

Earth Overshoot Day happened on 22 August this year, more than three weeks later than it did in 2019. This is the day on which ‘human consumption exceeds the amount nature can regenerate in a year’. COVID-19 has meant a 9.3 per cent reduction in the global population’s ecological footprint. The Global Footprint Network, which calculates each country’s footprint and is behind the initiative, has recently developed a new platform to share examples of projects on the ground. The Move the Date Solutions map platform allows anyone to upload information and photos of realised projects and programmes, with the aim of becoming an authoritative collation of action on the ground. It already includes a number of community projects in the UK. As the content grows, this could prove to be very useful information for urban designers.

CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION

The UK Committee for Climate Change published its annual report in June stressing that the Government ‘must seize the opportunity to turn the COVID-19 crisis into a defining moment in the fight against climate change’. The report sets out a series of recommendations in order to achieve this, including the retrofit of existing building stock, significant tree planting and re-wilding, as well as the public sector leading by example on positive behaviours for low carbon working patterns.

The Amsterdam Doughnut Plan was launched earlier this year. This is the first time that the concept of doughnut economics has been applied at the city scale. The concept establishes a social foundation and an ecological ceiling as the boundaries within which change should happen in the city. The Amsterdam plan sets out to answer four key questions, which also provide a great starting point for many urban design visions of masterplan; they are: what would it mean for the people of Amsterdam to thrive? What would it mean for Amsterdam to thrive within its natural habitat? What would it mean for Amsterdam to respect the well-being of people worldwide? What would it mean for Amsterdam to respect the health of the whole planet? In answering these questions the plan flags a number of important practical changes to how we design cities, from embedding biomimicry into the structure of green infrastructure or creating habitats for species directly in the fabric of buildings, through to building solar energy schemes into the city’s existing and new fabric to power 450,000 households.

CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

New research into the role of green infrastructure in cities has shed new light on the importance of certain types of spaces for pollinators. The research has shown that urban gardens, community gardens and farms, and roadside verges are key to supporting bee populations, due to their diversity of plants and the absence of pesticides. In contrast, the research found that many large parks in urban areas had low visitation rates by pollinators. The messages from the research are that small scale unplanned (and unmanaged) areas need to be integrated into cities, and that the diversity of spaces in urban areas needs expanding.

An interesting project which will have great benefits for pollinators is the world’s largest urban rooftop farm recently completed in Paris. On top of one of the pavilions of the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles, this 14,000sqm urban farm includes commercial growing space, allotments and a restaurant.

BREAKTHROUGH PROJECT

A world first has been proposed in Scotland as a huge step forward to clean energy. The H100 Fife project will be the world’s first green hydrogen heating network. In Phase 1 the network will heat up to 300 local homes using clean gas produced by an electrolysis plant powered by offshore wind energy. The project will be the first of its kind to employ a direct supply of clean power to produce hydrogen for domestic heating. In Phase 2 a further 1,000 homes will be linked to the network. This project is evidence that the cost of the required technology is starting to come down now, driven by developments in Asia.

URBAN DESIGN 156 Autumn 2020 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 156 Autumn 2020

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