Climate change and wellbeing
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is an excellent framework for thinking about health and wellbeing. We protect our environment to protect our basic needs – water, food, shelter and clean air.
The Met Office predicts a 10-20% increase in annual precipitation rates during the next decade, increasing the likelihood of flooding. The Met Office also projects a 2°C increase in average summer temperatures. Overheating in homes is an increasing problem, making some uninhabitable.
A while ago, Environment Agency research found that climate change will reduce the amount of annual rainfall in the UK. Even though rainfall intensity will increase and cause flooding during individual rain events, the total amount of water will be reduced. The Environment Agency has concluded that we need a domestic water efficiency of 130 litres per person per day (lpd); average domestic water usage is currently 143 lpd.
The fuels we burn for heating and transport emit air pollution. According to Defra, 10% of UK days have not met World Health Organisation safe levels during the past year.
According to The Economist’s Global Food Security Index, UK food security is currently only 71.9%. Climate change is affecting crops and food transportation.
Perhaps a national aim of 100% ‘wellbeing’, including environmental security, will make everyone truly aware of the importance of our environment.
Richard Lupo, MIEMA CEnv
Managing director at Suss Housing
Where next for biodiversity?
Biodiversity is by definition incredibly varied, meaning that when seeking to achieve net gain, losses will not be exactly the same as gains. Choices have to be made when creating or enhancing habitats, and some options will be better than others.
To support better decision-making, agencies such as Defra have introduced more sophisticated measures of losses and gains that seek to incorporate biodiversity’s complexity and ensure poor options are ruled out. It is why IEMA, CIRIA and CIEEM identified and published 10 good practice principles, along with detailed guidance on delivering net gain. Training is being delivered to upskill practitioners, and a BSI Standard is in preparation.
Taken together, the metrics, principles and guidance should lead to good decisions. But is that sufficient?
As a secondary consideration, options for achieving biodiversity net gain can and should be designed to achieve wider ecosystem services benefits such as flood protection, recreational opportunities, increased water quality or carbon sequestration. However, policy designed to achieve multiple outcomes is not well developed and there is no clear incentives framework for delivering more holistic nature-based solutions.
Work is needed to define good practice around the delivery of ‘environmental net gain’ and build this into biodiversity net gain policy. There is also a need to integrate development-based net gain schemes with climate change mitigation and adaptation policy, including carbon offsetting. Only then will landowners be able to confidently calculate the long-term economic benefits they would gain from investing in changes to land use that deliver biodiversity and ecosystem benefits.
IEMA’s head of policy and practice
Focus on the present
In these circumstances, I am sure many of us are focused on the ‘three Cs’ response to COVID-19: compassion, clients and (business) continuity. This is certainly the case at IEMA. It is engaging business leaders to provide answers to the questions that the pandemic has thrown at us (compassion), and continues to offer members lessons via Transform and webinars on tools, resources and guidance (clients and business continuity).
Of relevance to many is IEMA’s grip on the principles of sustainable resource management. The IEMA Impact Assessment Network recently published a Guide to Materials & Waste in EIA, and hosted a pre-launch webinar on 19 March. The guide provides an opportunity for EIA practitioners and stakeholders to assess the environmental impacts of materials and waste, inspiring improved and consistent sustainable practice within the built environment. You may also know that IEMA has a Circular Economy Network Steering Group, which not only influenced the guide, but is also working with BSI to engineer international standards on circularity, as well as to improve the industry’s understanding of related tools and processes.
Maintaining a balance between looking after our families, friends and colleagues, and keeping work flowing, remains a test. However, the situation is also challenging us to adapt, increase our resilience to change, and prepare for a time when we can respond to the lessons learned.
IEMA’s work to integrate sustainable resource management practices in the built environment will help maintain circularity as a golden thread of environmental assessment, and futureproof much our work – not least in the world of decarbonisation. I would urge each of you to continue to engage with IEMA’s work in this area: focus on the present, but also keep an eye on our future.
Tim Danson, PIEMA
IEMA Steering Group member