Planning Bill question: GHG emissions reduction

Obvious question: “Where does the ACT Planning Bill 2022 mandate green house gas (GHG) reductions?” GHG emission are the major driver of climate change. The Climate Change Emergency implies that we all should be trying to reduce them.

Section 9 Principles of good planning, one would think, should say this directly – but it does not. Where is a statement regarding the reduction in GHG to be found in the Planning Bill 2022?

ACT green house gas emissions reduction

Declaring a Climate Change Emergency in 2019 was so that we could prioritise measures for green house gas (GHG) emissions reduction. Reducing GHG requires structural changes, which are often not politically easy. When all parties pull in the same direction, it becomes much easier to implement a policy.

You will notice in the Principles of Good Planning, it does not explicitly mention GHG emission reduction. We have the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010, but one would think that the Planning Bill 2022 would echo the sentiment of this act.

Definitions from Schedule 2 of the Bill.

expected greenhouse gas emissions statement, for a development, means written information stating the annual amount of expected greenhouse gas emissions from operating the development.
greenhouse gas emissions—see the Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act 2010, dictionary.

Planning Bill 2022: consultation draft, ACT Government, 410.

Activation and liveability principles

The activation and liveability principles include active travel. We know active travel is as much dependent on how we build our cities as anything. Urban sprawl and car centric designs are poor for active travel. The Planning Bill 2022 mentions active travel only once in 342 pages. The new Territory Plan provides an opportunity to flesh out the practices that are compatible with this goal.

activation and liveability principles means the following:

(a) planning and design should support diverse economic and social activities, including through promoting different but compatible uses for buildings and other areas;

(b) urban areas should include a range of high-quality housing options with an emphasis on living affordability;

(c) urban areas should be designed to promote active travel and convenient and efficient use of public transport;

(d) districts should be planned, designed and developed to support active and healthy lifestyles and to cater for a diverse range of cultural and social activities;

(e) policies should support and enhance the quality of life and wellbeing of residents.

Planning Bill 2022: consultation draft, ACT Government, 9-12

Natural environment conservation principles

Climate change is not a good thing. Strangely, we need to continue to remind ourselves of this, as we are not changing the bad habits that caused it. Here are a few measures to do something about it.

  1. We can reduce climate change by reducing GHG emissions from burning fossil fuels.
  2. We can stop GHG being released from our natural environment through its destruction.
  3. We can use the natural environment to capture and store GHG (sequestration).
  4. We can mitigate the effects of climate change by building our cities differently.

The natural environment conservation principles mention climate change. We can use “nature-based solutions” to mitigate climate change. However, the way we build our cities is a driver of climate change. 60% of the greenhouse gas emission come from transport in the ACT. To reduce that, we need to plan our cities differently and cannot rely on nature alone to fix it.

natural environment conservation principles means the following:

(a) planning and design should promote healthy and resilient ecosystems, by avoiding or minimising loss of habitat and other key threatening processes for biodiversity;

(b) policies, planning and design should integrate and promote—

(i) nature-based solutions to climate change and water security; and

(ii) the valuation and maintenance of the ecosystem services and amenity provided by a healthy natural environment;

(c) biodiversity connectivity and habitat values should be integrated across urban areas, including through appropriate planning for, and landscaping of, urban open space and travel corridors.

Planning Bill 2022: consultation draft, ACT Government, 9-12

High-quality design principles

Permeability is another urban planning principle to encourage active travel. The idea is captured in (d) but again we would be well advised to flesh out in the new Territory Plan what permeability means for built form and planning of public space.

high-quality design principles means the following:

(a) development should be focussed on people and designed to—

(i) reflect local setting and context; and

(ii) have a distinctive identity that responds to the existing character of its locality; and

(iii) effectively integrate built form, infrastructure and public spaces;

(b) public spaces should be designed to be used, appropriately landscaped and vegetated, and should be designed to contribute to the urban forest;

(c) built form and public spaces should be designed to be inclusive and accessible to people with differing needs and capabilities, including through the serious consideration of universal design practices;

(d) developments should be planned and designed to be well-connected and integrated with surrounding development in ways that facilitate the safe, secure and effective movement of people within and through them.

Planning Bill 2022: consultation draft, ACT Government, 9-12

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