No more new homes for motorists. | Brussels Blog

No more new homes for motorists.

posted by on 11th Aug 2018

Key to this argument is the analysis and publication
of details of life at the Derwenthorpe development.
Thank you Joseph Rowntree Foundation.


No more new homes for motorists.

Derwenthorpe: Pleasant but unsustainable

It’s hard to see that the lifestyles of motorists are compatible with continued life on Earth.

Let me give an example: The Joseph Rowntree Foundation got researchers at the University of York to look at the new development at Derwenthorpe, York, using their REAP Petite software. Derwenthorpe was meant to be sustainable and have a low carbon footprint but it achieved a planet-destroying footprint of 14.52 tonnes CO2e per resident per year. This was worse than the average for York as a whole, which was still planet-destroying at 14.30 tonnes CO2e, when the fair remaining carbon budget to keep the Earth below a 1.5°C rise in temperature is 47 tonnes CO2e. These residents exceed the budget in less than 4 years.

World average emissions of CO2e are now about 7 tonnes CO2e per person per year. This racks up a planet-threatening 100 tonnes of CO2e in fifty years – even if emissions steadily declined to zero during that time (OK, this is optimistic.). Emissions from Derwenthorpe and the rest of York are more than twice the world average.

Although, Derwenthorpe residents have lower emissions due to the central wood chip burner that provides their heating, their carbon footprint for travel was estimated at 45% higher than York’s average. Car use is an important part of this : “Despite only one car space per household, few households had reduced their car use substantially”.

The report explains the carbon footprints of the residents are related to higher incomes:

it should be noted that, compared with the national REAP Petite sample, Derwenthorpe REAP Petite respondents are skewed towards higher income households with the richest 10 per cent of households nationally consuming three times more carbon for household energy and travel than the poorest 10 per cent.

Wealthier groups than Derwenthorpe residents will have even higher carbon emissions – and even more cars. What’s the message? It’s: Housing built for affluent motorists cannot be regarded as sustainable.


The draft London Plan

The draft London Plan (December 2017) may be recognising this issue. The plan cannot dictate how many holiday flights the residents of new housing can have but it can have an influence on car ownership. Its Policy T6(B) says:

Car-free development should be the starting point for all development proposals in places that are (or are planned to be) well-connected by public transport, with developments elsewhere designed to provide the minimum necessary parking (“car-lite”).

That’s a start.


The new National Planning Policy Framework.

The new NPPF (July 2018) says (in paragraph 7):

The purpose of the planning system is to contribute to the achievement of
sustainable development. At a very high level, the objective of sustainable
development can be summarised as meeting the needs of the present without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (4) .

Footnote 4 refers to, Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly:

  • 1. Welcomes the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development entitled “Our Common Future”;
  • 2. Notes with appreciation the important contribution made by the Commission to raising the consciousness of decision-makers in Governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental international organizations, industry and other fields of economic activity, as well as of the general public, in regard to the imperative need for making the transition towards sustainable development, and calls upon all concerned to make full use in this regard of the report of the Commission;
  • 3. Agrees with the Commission that while seeking to remedy existing environmental problems, it is imperative to influence the sources of those problems in human activity, and economic activity in particular, and thus to provide for sustainable development;
  • 4. Agrees further that an equitable sharing of the environmental costs and benefits of economic development between and within countries and between present and future generations is a key to achieving sustainable development;


Implications of Resolution 42/187:
“between and within countries”

Paragraph 3 demands sustainable development and Paragraph 4 demands an equitable sharing of the environmental costs of economic development “between and within countries”. “Equitable sharing” means it is not valid to make plans that allow high emissions and expect other countries to reduce their emissions to compensate.

This means that plans for residents with large greenhouse gas emissions are not compatible with UN Resolution 42/187: The residents of other countries should not be expected to limit their emissions to compensate. Consequently, such plans are not compatible with the new NPPF.

Most greenfield developments in most local plans in the UK break the new NPPF. On recent example is the latest York Local Plan, which is planning for nearly 15,000 homes to be built. Most of these will be acquired by the affluent with high carbon footprints.

If the new NPPF is taken seriously, planning for the high carbon lifestyles of affluent motorists is now illegal.


Sharing between present and future generations

(Paragraph added 17 Jan 2019)

The best expression of the case for equitable sharing between ‘present and future generations’ was made in a speech by the 15 year old Greta Thunberg at the UN Climate Change COP24 Conference. She said:

Our biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. It is the sufferings of the many which pay for the luxuries of the few.

The year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me. Maybe they will ask me about you. Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.


Greta Thunberg’s TEDx talk:

Our young should know that building for motorists with climate destroying carbon footprints is

‘stealing their future in front of their very eyes’.


Implications of Resolution 42/187:
“between present and future generations”

Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”

“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Alice in Wonderland.

Six probably impossible things:

1. BECCS will remove billions of tonnes of CO2 from the air.
2. Nations will co-operate
3. The public will be informed
4. Electric cars will become low carbon
5. Airline emissions will be curbed
6. Eating beef and lamb will be banned

Equitable sharing between “between present and future generations” may be harder to understand and quantify than sharing between nations. We can’t compare us and them directly. The comparison must be made using climate models and guesses about future events, technologies, politics & etc. (Continued on page 978..)

Anyway UN Resolution 42/187 and the new NPPF are clearly violated if we plan for affluent, planet-destroying motorists.

Postscript 02 Jan 2019

Electric cars are not the answer. Lomborg is right about that.


Smaller, lighter, slower cars?

Made with current sources of electricity, an EV creates carbon emissions from its manufacture that may be too large (See The carbon cost of achieving low carbon lifestyles). When electricity is decarbonised, this will improve but in the time before low carbon electricity, we must look for other options: shorter journeys and less frequent trips.

With shorter trips we could travel slowly in lighter vehicles making our travel more efficient and less carbon intensive. Locally that could mean pleasanter, quieter narrower roads – more like cycle tracks – and safe for electric golf carts, Segways, Giroboards.


Pedestrian apartheid

Separate developments for non-motorists makes living much cheaper and pleasanter – for the non- motorist. So much so that many motorists will give up their cars to join in. An analogue is the case of smokers on trains. When carriages were separated into smoking and non-smoking. he smokers could dwindled: They could not stand their own pollution.

New developments for non-motorists should be added to existing settlements, with facilities that could be used by nearby neighbourhoods to help them become car free.

Hashtags: #Carfree, #PedestrianApartheid

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