Planning rules must be rewritten in face of climate change – EEA

Europe must wake up to the impact of building developments on climate change and rewrite planning laws to take this into account, according to the European Environment Agency.

Planning strategy also needs to take into account the effects of climate change which are already with us or are unavoidable and consider adaptation.

This was the key message of Prof Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA, when she spoke at a gathering of professionals working at the international ESPACE (European Spatial Planning: Adapting to Climate Events) project last Friday.

Even if global efforts to cut carbon emissions go beyond all expectations, Europe can expect to see a significant increase in severe weather such as drought, flooding and extreme heat waves in coming decades.

“While the worst effects of climate change may not hit Europe for many years we must prepare now,” said Prof McGlade.

“Climate change will have profound effects on our natural resources and will also change the way we go about our daily lives. We will not only lose biodiversity but also large parts of our territory, for example low-lying coastal areas and river basins as sea levels rise.”

Funded by the EU, ESPACE is a project which tries to illustrate the importance of overhauling the entire planning process to allow member states to adapt the built environment to climate change.

According to Prof McGlade, many European countries have made token gestures in this area but few are seriously imbedding climate change into planning systems.

“While national strategies to adapt to climate change do exist in several European countries there are huge gaps,” she said.

“As we look out across Europe we see very little happening on adaptation despite the stark warnings from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Planners and planning authorities have a vital role to play.”

She also praised ESPACE for being one of the first projects for raising awareness on the need for planning systems to adapt to climate change, establishing trans-national and sub-national networks and contributing to EU policy development.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie