UCL News


'Foresight' report launched today

26 November 2008


Foresight Report - Sketch foresight.gov.uk/Energy/EnergyFinal/final_project_report.pdf" target="_self">Report: 'Powering Our Lives: Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment' UCL Bartlett School of Planning UCL Environment Institute

A government thinktank has published a report today that outlines how human spaces can be adjusted to provide a greener environment. The report is the product of intensive work conducted between 2006 and 2008 by a group of Lead Experts chaired by Professor Yvonne Rydin, Professor of Planning, Environment and Public Policy at the UCL Bartlett School of Planning and Co-Director of the UCL Environment Institute.

The study, entitled 'Powering Our Lives: Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment', looks at how the UK's buildings and spaces will need to evolve to help cut carbon emissions. It concludes that the UK is stuck with using certain forms of energy, not because they are better but because they have historically dominated other options. The report, sponsored by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), proposes a number of behavioural and regulatory changes which could help us to overcome this inertia, and which could be introduced over the next 50 years, including the upgrading of buildings and spaces to provide greater carbon neutrality, a move towards decentralised energy systems, and improving human behaviour in the built environment.

Professor John Beddington, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser and Director of the 'Foresight' programme, said: "The energy used to power buildings is responsible for over 50% of UK carbon emissions. Urgent action needs to be taken if we are going to meet the 80% emissions target outlined by the government in the Climate Change Bill. We need to think again about how we produce and use energy, and this report explores the link between the energy we use to power our lives and the places in which we use it. Today's study offers a range of proposals on energy production for the government to consider, while giving food for thought to all of us about the energy we use."

Margaret Beckett, who as Minister for Housing is the report's Ministerial sponsor, added: "Given that our buildings are responsible for almost half of the UK's carbon emissions, we need to be taking action now if we are to succeed in hitting our targets. Today's report provides valuable advice on the roles both the government and the general public can play in tackling one of the most pressing issues facing the entire world."

The principal aim of the 'Foresight' project is to explore how the UK built environment could evolve over the next five decades, in order to secure sustainable, low-carbon energy systems which meet the needs of society, the requirements of the economy, and the expectations of individuals. Achieving a transition in the built environment to sustainable energy systems is likely to require multiple changes in, for example, planning and building regulation and social behaviour, as well as action from business, government and consumers. According to the authors, 'systematically exploring possible futures, over the next five decades, with the aim of making current policies robust and resilient to future change needs to be a key part of the policy-making process'. Four hypothetical scenarios of the future were therefore developed for the project; the scenarios are laid out in detail in today's report, but in short comprise 'green growth', 'resourceful regions', 'sunshine state', and 'carbon creativity'. 

Professors Michael Davies, Robert Lowe, Tadj Oreszczyn, and J Philip Steadman, and Dr Mark Barrett, from the UCL Bartlett School are among the authors of the final project report, and have between them written three related articles published in December's issue of 'Energy Policy'.

As the project's sponsor, the CLG will now take responsibility for the report's findings to assist in policy development across the government.

About 'Foresight'
Foresight is part of the Government Office for Science, and aims 'to help the government think systematically about the future, using the latest scientific and other evidence to provide signposts for policymakers in tackling future challenges'. The two-year project has involved over 150 experts from areas including economics, energy technologies, planning, construction, and social sciences. Although Foresight's reports do not constitute government policy, they are intended to inform the strategic and long-term choices facing government departments, business and the general public.

Mark Maslin, 'Global Warming: A Very Short Introduction'
A fully updated edition of this 2004 book by Professor Maslin (Co-Director of the UCL Environment Institute) is published by Oxford University Press on 27 November. To find out more, please click here.

To read the report, or to find out more, please use the links at the top of this page.