Most people agree that urgent action is needed to address the climate crisis.
With COP26 less than six months away, this week’s Climate Crisis Challenge special issue underlines how engaged much of the property industry is in helping solve the problem it has played such a huge part in causing.
However, it seems some have still not received the memo. As FORE Partnership’s managing partner Basil Demeroutis observes: “There are still some dinosaurs out there complaining that there is an injustice being levied on real estate owners.”
These dinosaurs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are occupiers that do not care how sustainable a building is so long as the rent is as cheap as possible. Some are the developers that insist there is nothing they can do to mitigate the impact of embodied carbon.
This outdated way of thinking would not be so infuriating if it only impacted their businesses. Sadly, it affects us all – with the built environment accounting for as much as 40% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a need to educate those holding back. And, thankfully, there are plenty of people prepared to step up to the plate as the line-up of Climate Crisis Challenge partners and industry heavyweights featured in this week’s issue attest.
As ever, UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen cuts straight to the chase, arguing that as we emerge from the Covid tunnel “everything should be going through a kind of net zero funnel that asks: does this or does this not enable us to achieve that net zero target?”
It is not as difficult as some claim. Susan Hone-Brookes, director of sustainability at Climate Crisis Challenge supporting partner chapmanbsdp, says an obvious first step is to get measuring. “It’s that classic thing. If you don’t accurately measure something, you can’t manage it, so you can’t effectively change it,” she says.
UKGBC chair and UK Built Environment Climate Ambassador Sunand Prasad breaks down the challenge in simple terms: “To limit the rise in mean global temperature to 1.5 degrees requires us to stop burning oil, gas and coal urgently.
“Every business needs continually to ask: ‘How can we ensure that in every area of operation we are continually moving forcefully towards ending dependence on fossil fuels?’”
The government needs to do its bit, too. Simon Douch, principal of heritage conservation at HOK, calls for more incentives to be offered to developers to redevelop historic buildings rather than build new ones. “These include reducing VAT charges on repair costs, which often hinder the renovation and refurbishment of historic buildings, and more statutory protection that recognises architectural and historical significance.”
The sheer number of industry experts like these who are willing to share their wisdom and advice on how to take the next step towards net zero gives me hope.
One climate sceptic in the industry is one too many. But as Demeroutis puts it, the sceptics are dinosaurs – and we all know what happened to the dinosaurs.