Royal Town Planning Institute president Wei Yang has called for a more holistic approach to planning in order to address the climate crisis.
Speaking at Housing 2021 in Manchester, Yang challenged delegates: “At the moment the biggest crisis we’re facing is climate change. When you ask teenagers, and also youngsters in their early 20s, their biggest concern they face is actually climate change, rather than housing. So how we can join all these agendas together to make sure that the housing we’re building today is in the right location, it won’t be affected by flooding, and that they don’t need to be retrofitted tomorrow, because they aren’t fit for changing standards, and also how we can make sure actually they are accessible by low carbon, or zero carbon transportation?”
Yang added that a recent report published by her organisation argued that if we are not considering transport planning and land-use planning together, it is very unlikely that the UK can achieve the zero carbon agenda by 2050.
“All of our leading scientists in the UK have been arguing for a whole systems approach,” she explained. “So planning is about the system’s approach for how to take our human society, our climate and biodiversity, and consider it as a joint system together. That’s the only way we can tackle all these challenges we face now.”
Yang even had a light-hearted, but salient anecdote from the event to warn of the dangers of short-sightedness in the planning system: “This morning I was attending a speech by the climate minister in the Future for Living Theatre,” she revealed. “I was looking around for the host venue, and when I asked people ‘where is the Future for Living venue,’ nobody can manage to tell me. I was looking around for 30 minutes, looking for the future. And eventually found it – the venue was just behind the registration desk. So I suddenly saw that I was looking for a future, but actually we are putting the future behind us over the long-term thinking. We’re going to build one million homes by the end of this parliament, but the world will not end at the end of this parliament, so we really need to think about our future generations.”
Image: RTPI president Wei Yang, courtesy Miaozhong1/Creative Commons.