Agenda item


Mr. Ritchie attended in connection with this item and was welcomed by the Chairperson.


            Mr. Ritchie stated that the climate action report was concerned primarily with changes which could be made to the built environment and which could impact positively on climate change. He provided an outline on the role of the RSUA in assisting the development plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.


            Mr. Ritchie referred specifically to the areas which the Climate Emergency Committee was examining to impact positively on climate change including:


1.     Existing Buildings

2.     New Buildings

3.     Travel

4.     Green

5.     Building Materials and

6.     Heat and Power


He highlighted the areas under which the Council had control and could influence change, under the afore-mentioned specified headings.In terms of buildings, he specified the need to improve the energy performance and reduce emissions from existing buildings and increase the use made of those buildings. The Members were informed that it was important to publish data on energy production and consumption associated with Council buildings, on an annual basis, including a plan to reduce energy consumption within individual buildings. He highlighted the requirement to modify planning laws in order to increase the use of existing buildings.


The Committee was informed that net-zero carbon emissions was required to be within the brief of the construction of new buildings and that they would be required to be constructed in a manner to ensure longevity. Mr. Ritchie explained that there was a requirement to reduce the carbon used to construct new buildings as, in many cases, carbon debt often exceeded the operational carbon produced.


The Members were informed of the need to reduce embodied carbon, which was the amount of energy used to construct new buildings. Mr. Ritchie emphasised the importance of the Council publishing data on embodied carbon in the construction of those buildings. The Committee was provided with the key areas which required attention if the Council was to achieve its climate ambition targets, including:


Travel by Traditional Motor Vehicles


The need to reduce travel and increase the level of high-density inner-city housing was identified as a key determinant to reducing carbon emissions by reducing the need to travel. The Committee was informed that new area plans were required to be put in place to facilitate high density residential development. Mr. Ritchie suggested the recruitment of a city architect, in a cross-departmental role, to assist the Council in that regard. He highlighted the need to integrate the public transport system by incorporating cycles lanes and pedestrian pathways.




The Members were informed of the need to increase the coverage of native Irish trees to increase the future supply of local timber. It was reported that Northern Ireland was required currently to import a large proportion of its timber and this would negate that requirement.  Mr. Ritchie suggested the creation of a fund to develop green spaces, in urban areas, and of the need to increase urban food production, including the increased provision of allotments, vegetable gardens and terraces.


Building Materials


The Committee was alerted to the requirement to reduce building material consumption, as part of the building process, and to publish data on the measures taken to reduce embodied carbon. He referred to the need to encourage the use of local building and recycled materials in the building construction process.


Heat and Power


            The Members were informed of the need to move away from the use of fossil fuels and of the requirement to increase the production of green electricity. Mr. Ritchie highlighted the benefits of facilitating local and community heat and power production within existing communities and new developments.


            In response to a question from a Member in regard to how far the Council had progressed in the achievement of reducing its carbon emissions, Mr. Ritchie stated that progress had been made and referred specifically to the new university campus as an example of positive change in building design and social integration.


            A Member requested what action could be taken to increase the occupancy of vacant buildings above street level in city centre dwellings. Mr. Ritchie responded by stating that a change in planning policy and financial incentives, through subsidies and grants, might assist and that residents in city centre living required integrated planning and transport with green and eco-friendly spaces throughout the city.


            A Member highlighted further the problem associated with a lack of political governance presently and was reminded that the Council could affect change through its local development plans, linked to the Belfast Agenda.


The Committee was informed that the inclusion of mandatory building standards, by the Council, could not only assist the Council in achieving its carbon emission targets but could encourage inward investment. In terms of payback associated with positive building design, Mr. Ritchie stated that it was not always the case that passive house design cost more to incorporate within the structure of a building. He confirmed that the Council needed to look at long-term investment and that, in general terms, a passive house had ten per-cent of the running costs associated with a standard build.  He confirmed that investors tended to invest in long-term programmes.


            A Member raised concerns in regard to the lack of connective infrastructure associated with the provision of alternative forms of transport, including safe cycle lanes and the maintenance of both road and cycle surfaces. He highlighted the need to separate alternative forms of green transport from congested and dangerous traffic lanes.


            The Director of City and Organisational Strategy, at the request of a Member, agreed to bring back, to a future meeting of the Committee, a report on the gaps which the Council was required to address, in terms of meeting its targets, on delivering the recommendations contained within Mr. Ritchie’s presentation.


The Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, thanked Mr. Ritchie for his detailed and informative presentation and he departed from the meeting.




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