As I write this, the UK government has just announced a £400m green investment deal with Bill Gates, Boris Johnson has finally published his long-awaited Net Zero Strategy and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has published its Heat and Buildings Strategy setting out how the buildings sector is to achieve net zero.
The political rhetoric on climate change is ramping up. The stakes are high. And, with a little support from Bill Gates, the UK has set out to differentiate itself and become the prime location for green investment, proclaiming that this new “green industrial revolution” will come with “new regulatory freedoms” and “an exciting new direction”.
In the meantime, the 2030 deadlines many cities have set for net zero are looming closer. Without addressing the carbon emissions generated by the built environment, these will not be achievable. And for that to happen we need joined-up, urgent action – particularly across commercial real estate.
For COP26, UKGBC is renewing its push to drive signatories to the UNFCC Race to Zero campaign and, as a key element of this, to drive up signatories to WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment – who will join the likes of Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest Group, The Crown Estate, Grainger, Grosvenor, Stanhope, JLL, Savills, Multiplex and Foster + Partners.
The WorldGBC commitment calls on businesses, organisations, cities and subnational governments to reduce (and compensate where necessary) all operational and embodied carbon emissions within their portfolios by 2030, and to advocate for all buildings to be net zero whole-life carbon by 2050.
Through this framework, the commitment ensures all signatories can deliver against their targets, while driving tangible reductions and wider benefits. As I have stated before, the biggest threat to climate action is not denial, but delay.
While we need to strive for more, COP26 is also an opportunity to show how far the industry has come – and that the solutions are within our grasp. Build Better Now is a built environment virtual pavilion that is delivered by UKGBC and 100-plus industry partners for COP26, showcasing some of the most innovative projects from around the world to promote best practice and inspire a new generation of sustainable buildings and cities.
A big part of the campaign is around encouraging businesses to reconsider the carbon footprint of their real estate. We want this amazing showcase to inspire business leaders across the world to take action on mitigating the carbon footprint of their buildings – a crucial act if they are going to meet their net zero commitments and deliver on their ESG promises.
With COP26, world leaders will attempt to form defining resolutions on climate change – and we know the built environment has a crucial part to play. We know why we must accelerate climate action and Build Better Now can inspire how we get there. Everyone on the planet has a stake in our buildings and cities. I invite all global citizens to take inspiration from Build Better Now as a global showcase of pioneering solutions to climate change.
Julie Hirigoyen is chief executive of UKGBC