Reducing our emissions 3: Scotland’s towns and cities

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Buildings, streets, the spaces in between and the ways people use them or relate to them, in other words the built environment system, has a key role to play in supporting Scotland’s ambition to decarbonise the economy and reduce our emissions. While both rural and urban settings affect our emissions, this post is about the opportunities for positive contribution that our towns and cities represent towards meeting our emissions reductions targets.

How do our towns and cities support reducing our emissions?

The Climate Change Plan (CCP) explains how buildings and transport in Scotland are expected to help us achieve our challenging legislative targets for decarbonisation to 2032. For buildings, the CCP includes measures such as improving the energy performance of our housing stock and non-domestic buildings, initially through increased insulation levels and use of low carbon technologies for heating and cooling. For transport, the changes discussed include the increasing use of low emission vehicles, establishing low emissions zones in Scotland’s four major cities, along with the promotion of active travel choices. Our buildings and vehicles will be powered by a largely decarbonised electricity system which will ensure emissions reduction and security of supply through diverse generation technologies, increased storage, smart grid technologies and improved interconnection.

Strategic thinking at design stage

While these plans will directly affect people in Scotland, the built environment components and the relationships between them, they should not be seen in isolation. Through using strategic thinking at the design stage, we can achieve emissions reductions at a macro scale:

  • As we look at improving our buildings, we also have the opportunity to enhance the infrastructure, and enable it to support their operation through, for example, low carbon heat networks which can use the energy of waste water and drainage systems or other locally available resources.
  • The spaces between buildings can be rethought of as new green infrastructure pockets, which, when linked to the existing or extended green infrastructure network, can affect the travel choices of the local communities.
  • Existing established routes between destinations can be revisited and reimagined as links between services and civic facilities, promoting quality of life and encouraging the development of active communities. They could for example provide opportunities for active travel, different public transport routes with low emission buses and enable the establishment of low emission zones.

Placemaking is a useful way of thinking about how our towns and cities can help Scotland decarbonise. Tools such as the Place Standard can be used to provide people with the opportunity, power and support to talk about their place and use this to inform future action.

You can read our other blogs in the Reducing our Emission Series here:

Reducing Our Emissions 1: Housing and greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland

Reducing our emissions 2: Heating our homes

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