I thought there was only supposed to be one Blue Monday a year. The 15th of February certainly gave the third Monday in January a run for its money.
It was not only the day people had to contemplate another bleak half term trapped inside their homes with the kids but also when Boris Johnson announced that our exit from lockdown would be “cautious” and that Covid rates would have to be “really, really low before restrictions could be eased” (read ‘forget Easter and don’t bother booking your summer holiday yet either’). To top things off, former Microsoft boss-turned-philanthropist Bill Gates was on TV proclaiming that ending the pandemic was “very, very easy” compared with tackling climate change.
Ahead of our second Climate Crisis Perceptions Survey, launched this week as part of our Climate Crisis Challenge campaign, I had been telling the team that while we cannot do anything about Covid, we can control what we write in the magazine and influence how the industry tackles the climate crisis.
Am I deluding myself – and the team? Despite the enormity of the challenge and possibility we have already passed the point of no return, I don’t think I am – and Gates’ remarks have only strengthened that conviction.
He was basically saying that in the big scheme of things, Covid is more of an acute problem, whereas climate change is a chronic one. In other words, tackling the climate crisis will require a far more concerted and lasting plan of attack, but it can be done if we ramp up our efforts now.
The first year of the Climate Crisis Challenge, which we are running in collaboration with UKGBC, proved that the property industry has a plan. I hope that this year’s survey results reflect a shift from bold statements of intent to tangible action. I also hope the government does its bit (as Gates said, government intervention will be critical). Unfortunately, there are worrying signs of backpedalling.
In a powerful comment piece, UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen bemoans the government’s decision not to roll over millions of unspent pounds on the Green Homes Grant Scheme to the next financial year (in the comment section, where our lead Climate Crisis Challenge partners also set out their stalls).
She is right to be concerned. This is a troubling move ahead of COP26 in November and a somewhat suspicious one given the government’s announcement at around the same time of an extra £3.5bn of funding to remove unsafe cladding in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy (which still doesn’t go far enough).
It whiffs of robbing Peter to pay Paul and is not the way to accelerate the paradigm shift necessary to tackle the climate crisis. Indeed, it could badly compromise the agenda at the worst possible moment, just as the industry and public have galvanised themselves into action on multiple fronts, including social value. Let’s hope the government sees, or is made to see, the error of its ways.
D&I Editorial Advisory Board
Another chronic problem that requires a far more joined-up approach if it is to be solved is the industry’s lack of diversity. Cue the launch of our new Diversity & Inclusion Editorial Advisory Board, which held its first quarterly meeting last week. A massive thanks to all who attended for your inspirational input. We can’t take the next step without you!