Much has changed since we first joined forces with Property Week on the Climate Crisis Challenge. As we begin year three of our partnership, it’s important to reflect on progress made to date, and highlight where action is still urgently required.
Globally, momentum is building. Almost 90% of global emissions are now covered by a net zero pledge. More than $130trn worth of financial assets under management by private firms have joined the Glasgow Financial Alliance to Net Zero. And hundreds of companies have joined the UNFCCC-backed Race to Zero. This is positive, but nowhere near enough. Much more is required from government, industry and us all as individuals.
The climate emergency remains the most pressing issue facing the built environment. We’re directly responsible for 25% of total UK emissions, and as evidenced by UKGBC’s Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, continuing a ‘business as usual’ approach will simply not deliver net zero by 2050. Instead, the current pace of climate action will only deliver a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide levels compared with 1990 emissions levels.
Business as usual will also threaten the very existence of our built assets. Climate extremes have intensified over the last seven years, posing physical risks to both tangible assets and business supply chains, threatening their financial viability. In fact, by 2050, UK modelling predicts that over 500,000 residential and commercial properties will be at high risk to extreme weather conditions.
The scale of the challenge remains enormous, urgently requiring a transformational shift in the way we design, construct, operate and deconstruct buildings.
For 2022, I urge all built environment businesses and professionals to embrace the eight action areas of the Climate Crisis Challenge.
If your organisation hasn’t already, it’s now imperative to:
1. Measure and disclose: Understanding the true impact of our buildings can only be achieved if we measure and calculate all types of carbon emissions, from embodied carbon to operational energy in-use, and to wider Scope 3 emissions. Given the current energy bills crisis, it has never been more important for commercial landlords and building owners to measure, disclose and reduce their energy performance and in-use emissions.
Alongside carbon, it’s crucial that identifying, measuring and mitigating for climate-related physical risks becomes the norm in 2022, not least because disclosing those risks will become mandatory for the UK’s largest organisations from April onwards, as per new TCFD-aligned rules.
2. Integrate a robust pathway to net zero into your business: Tackling the climate crisis will require action from every single stakeholder and subsector involved in the built environment. As a starter for 10, take a look at the 14 Stakeholder Action Plans published alongside UKGBC’s Roadmap; identify the one that relates most closely to your business activities; and integrate the actions into your net zero transition plan.
3. Radically collaborate: To understand the industry’s pathway to net zero, we must embrace ‘radical collaboration’ to tackle the biggest challenges. The Climate Crisis Challenge seeks to do exactly this – to bring industry together in showcasing pioneering climate solutions and give a platform to those already seizing the opportunity to mitigate their environmental impact, collaborating as signatories of the Race to Zero, and those signed up under the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.
The clock is ticking. Our Roadmap shows we have a finite amount of time to activate the transformation required, and it’s critical progress is made imminently. Now is the time to challenge ourselves to move further and faster.
Julie Hirigoyen is chief executive of UKGBC