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Climate Change FAQs

What is Climate Change?

Climate change is the long-term shift in average weather patterns across the world. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have increased the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mainly through the burning of fossil fuels. These gases act like a blanket around the planet, trapping heat in. This has caused global temperatures to rise, resulting in long-term changes to the climate. The implications of our changing climate include flooding, more extreme weather events, species extinction, displaced populations and food insecurity (Met Office).

The Climate Change DPD will provide the Council’s planning approach to standards and expectations to deal with the mitigation of impacts of climate change in Cornwall. It will contain a mix of policies and allocations to help decision makers.

The Council has a Climate Change Action Plan that sets out the other actions that we can take to address climate change.

We are still scoping what the document might contain, but it could cover the land use planning aspects of:

  • Identifying potential areas suitable for the provision of large scale renewable energy schemes
  • Re-powering of existing renewable sites
  • Introduction of Innovation Zones / LDOs
  • Addressing Coastal Change/Flood Management
  • Improving Building Standards/Energy efficiency
  • Natural Climate Solutions
  • Agriculture
  • Electric charging networks
  • Increasing Town Centre density to reduce the need to travel and increase viability

'Net Zero,' means that any remaining emmisions (e.g. from agriculture or from HGVs) are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Biodiversity net gain is an approach to development that aims to leave the natural environment in a measurably better state than beforehand. It means that each site that is developed must consider the measures that will increase features that add biodiversity, including trees, hedges, wildflowers, ponds and other habitat.

A calculation is undertaken of existing biodiversity on site and the proposed development is then expected to increase natural habitats and ecological features on-site to deliver more for biodiversity.

It is not a ‘licence to trash’. The mitigation hierarchy must still be followed and the loss of biodiversity on site in favour of the creation of an off-site gain will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances.

Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a term for describing different greenhouse gases as a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming impact.

Natural climate solutions are about helping nature to do what it has done for millions of years; sequester and store carbon. Specifically, conservation, restoration and land management activities that increase carbon storage and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions across global forests, wetlands, grasslands and agricultural lands. These solutions are increasingly recognised as being fundamentally important in mitigating the negative impacts of climate change and supporting ecosystem resilience. In Cornwall this could include large scale tree planting and reintroduction of habitat such as wetlands.


It is estimated that natural climate solutions could address up to 37% global greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed by 2030 to stabilize the climate (Grisom et al.)

 The action or process of compensating for carbon dioxide emissions arising from industrial or other human activity, by participating in schemes designed to make equivalent reductions of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; these often include large scale tree planting works.

Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils, geologic formations and the ocean. One option for Cornwall could include the creation of new habitat in the form of tree planting (including the Forest for Cornwall) as well as recreating wetlands and other declining habitat.

In 2011, the government announced that from 2016 all homes would need to be zero carbon. Allowable solutions were a proposed offsetting scheme for any residual CO2 after minimising CO2 through high energy efficiency standards and the installation of renewables. The solutions were expected to consist of:

  • The developer improving existing buildings or producing renewable energy off site.
  • Making payments to an ‘allowable solutions provider' who could be a local authority provider or a private provider.
  • A national carbon abatement fund which invests in CO2 abatement projects, with payments into the fund by means of an agreed fee per kg CO2 to offset emissions

In 2015, the government announced it would not proceed with the allowable solutions scheme. However a number of plans now use a form of allowable solutions to bridge the gap between Building Regulations requirements and the aim to achieve Zero Carbon – for instance the London Plan and Milton Keynes Local Plan both ask for a financial contribution to help pay for other carbon offsetting measures.

A ‘one planet approach’ is an ambition to use our fair share of the Earth’s resources, where, within a generation, our ecological footprint is reduced to the global average availability of resources – 1.88 global hectares per person. Currently, if everyone on the Earth lived as we do in the UK, we would use 2.7 planets worth of resources to sustain us. The Welsh Assembly Government has produced a planning policy to encourage off-grid living.

A Local Development Order (LDO) is a simple tool to allow a Local Planning Authority to introduce new permitted development rights. They are flexible and consistent with local determination, and are part of a move to remove bureaucracy and redefine the issues where planning really makes a contribution to the local area.

LDOs are a means for the planning system to incentivise development in a way that meets a whole range of locally specific policy objectives.

Over the period of a year, approximately a third of Cornwall’s electricity needs come from renewables.

Western Power Distribution (WPD) is a key stakeholder in the development of the Climate Change DPD. Cornwall Council and WPD have agreed to work together to ensure that the electricity grid can meet Cornwall’s renewable energy aspirations. We currently anticipate that this could include a number of measures including grid reinforcement, private networks, smart networks and storage of power by a number of means.