Climate Change Global Digest

Climate Change Global Digest Summer 2021

Jane Manning with Joanna Wright, Mitch Cooke and Julie Futcher

Alongside the activities of Earth Day 2021 on 21 April, a raft of announcements and commitments have been made both in the UK and around the world. As we continue to build towards COP26 in November, the stakes are rising for action in the built environment sector. Here we provide some updates on commitments in UK and some of the research and projects that are leading the way.


The Government has adopted the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget in full. The Budget charts a course to net-zero emissions via a target in 2035 for reducing emissions by 80 per cent compared to 1990 levels. This decision will require significant follow-up changes in policies and guidance affecting the built environment. Experts flag the need to rapidly update policies on energy efficiency and renewable energy production, as well as establish clear strategies for how electricity can be stored and managed across the grid. It is safe to say that urban designers need to work to increased targets to ensure that the pathway to net-zero is well embedded in designs that will come to fruition in years to come.

A good indication for the targets which urban designers should be working to can be found in RIBA’s 2030 Climate Challenge. The checklist includes both resource use targets and more general principles around prioritising the retrofit of existing buildings wherever possible.

In addition, the London Energy Transformation Initiative’s (LETI) Climate Design Guide is starting to make an impact, with the LETI benchmarks now being picked up as the targets for building performance by local authorities. Whilst the LETI work is London-focused, the targets and guidance are applicable much more widely and provide the most comprehensive guidance for designers to-date. Particularly useful are the single page downloads for four building typologies which set out the key performance indicators to meet whole life carbon for small housing schemes, medium housing schemes, commercial offices, and schools.


The RTPI has just published a research paper on place-based approaches to climate change. The paper includes some useful case studies for urban designers including adopted climate design guidance (Greater Cambridge) and informal technical guidance on overheating (Haringey).

The Mayor of London has just launched a design guide focused on Urban Greening For Biodiversity Net Gain. The guide is a concise 20-page document which sets out simple design considerations for different types of urban greening, encompassing public realm design, SuDS, green roofs and podiums, and façade design.

The C40 Cities Knowledge Hub has been expanding its data availability and now has a useful database of cities and their transport mode share. The Transport Data Explorer allows you to zoom into cities across the world to understand the percentage of sustainable transport used and to learn the actions taken by each city to achieve this.


The City of York Council has launched zero carbon housing proposals for six sites across 6th Carbon Budget City of York housing RIBA 2030 Challenge LETI Design Guide Transport Data Explorer Langholm Moor RTPI research paper Biodiversity Net Gain Design Guide the city. Sites such as Ordnance Lane will be developed as mixed and inclusive communities with sustainable design including certified Passivhaus which will be zero carbon in use. Mikhail Riches Architects are leading the design team which includes Tibbalds and Urbed, and the projects have involved extensive and iterative community engagement.

The Kindling Trust has been active in Manchester for over 10 years increasing the availability and access to sustainable food. They run co-operative enterprises providing vegetable boxes to homes and businesses and have established a Community Food and Horticulture Hub in Stockport, as well as a social prescribing programme Grow, Cook and Eat. Now they have launched the next part of their vision: to buy a farm on the edge of Manchester. The Trust has launched the opportunity for members of the public to buy shares in the 120-acre farm. The farm will grow organic produce for residents of Greater Manchester and will adopt agroforestry practices (growing trees and crops on the same land) thereby making a significant positive contribution to the climate and biodiversity crisis.

The Kindling Trust is looking to follow in the footsteps of what has just been achieved in Dumfriesshire. The Langholm Institute has just purchased 5,200 acres of the Langholm Moor and Tarras Valley as part of a community buy-out initiative. Nearly 4,000 people donated to the crowd-funding campaign, raising over £200,000 towards the £3.8m cost. The land will be protected and managed in a sustainable way to maximise its social and environmental contribution.

URBAN DESIGN 159 Summer 2021 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 159 Summer 2021

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