Use legislation to support the clean energy transition for buildings and industry
Most cities are now drawing their decarbonisation roadmaps, but some plans are more daring than others. Copenhagen, for instance, is targeting carbon neutrality within five years – far ahead of many similarly sized cities. Is your city ready to be global leader in promoting the public wellbeing and a healthy climate?
From a global perspective, full decarbonisation of electricity grids by 2030 is a realistic ambition across most of the developed world. Renewable heating and cooling for buildings can follow by 2050. Of course, none of this can be achieved without investment, so local and national treasuries will need to get creative about their investments.
It will also be important for you to green infrastructure assets, and support large scale renovation and retrofit programmes across existing and legacy real estate.
Businesses can be incentivised to meet some of this upfront investment requirement with longer-term green tax relief schemes. Planning regulations should be optimised for the low-carbon transition. Regulation is, of course, vitally necessary; but you must regulate “smart”. If you make it easier to build green and harder to build brown in your city, you will provide manifold local benefits for your citizens. What’s more, you will be making a meaningful contribution to the global climate effort.
Victorian art critic John Ruskin once said:
“When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them.”
I’m often reminded of these words, which were etched into the floor of the Chicago Tribune Building decades ago, when considering the crises of the modern age. In Ruskin’s mind, there were two types of people: those who pursued their own advantage at the expense of others, and those who sought others’ advantage at their own expense. In the built environment, we must view the work we do today from the perspective of generations to come. Are we leaving a lasting, sustainable legacy?
I hope that your answer to this question is a resounding “Yes!”