People often say ‘the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity’, particularly in this industry. Not when it comes to the climate emergency, though. ‘The greater the challenge, the greater the threat’ is the more likely refrain.

Liz Hamson leader

Liz Hamson, editor

As Property Week and UKGBC kick off the third year of our Climate Crisis Challenge campaign, the reality is that while we may finally be emerging from the Covid pandemic, we can add to the swirling vortex of ongoing distractions a whole bunch of new ones, such as soaring energy costs, rising inflation and interest rates and Ukraine-Russia tensions. The climate emergency is now just one of many crises, albeit the biggest.

It is no surprise that new research conducted by European ESG data intelligence firm Deepki shows that 36% of UK commercial real estate professionals feel the ESG ambition of the organisations they work for is minimal or, worse, lagging, with no active ESG strategy in place, and that just 14% see their organisations as ESG pioneers.

This year marks a critical juncture for the climate agenda as we square up not just to the escalating ‘cost-of-living crisis’ but to the ‘cost-of-doing-business crisis’. That is why, for the third year of the Climate Crisis Challenge, we have set our most ambitious goals yet.

As in previous years, we are urging the industry to follow the likes of Primary Health Properties in introducing net zero targets – this week, it announced the launch of its Net Zero Carbon Framework. However, to reflect the raft of new challenges and threats, we are also calling on the industry to ‘reduce in-use’ energy and urging government to align the Planning Bill with climate objectives in the Climate Change Act. We also want to establish how much progress the industry has made to date, which is why in this year’s survey, we are asking you to share what your organisations are doing as well as how your attitudes towards the crisis are changing.

Much has been achieved in the first two years of the campaign, but as UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen notes, we must go “further and faster”. On the plus side, she argues, almost 90% of global emissions are covered by a net zero pledge. On the minus, the current pace of climate change will only deliver a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide levels on 1990 levels by 2050, and more than half a million UK properties will be at high risk due to extreme weather conditions.

Hirigoyen throws down the gauntlet to the industry to measure and disclose, integrate a robust pathway to net zero and radically collaborate. JLL EMEA global head of sustainability services and ESG Guy Grainger also called for radical collaboration on the climate when I interviewed him recently.

They are right about the need for radical action. If year one of the Climate Crisis Challenge was about raising awareness or the ‘why’, and year two was about preaching to the unconverted and the ‘how’, year three is very much about the ‘what’ – and radical collaboration will be critical to delivering the best practice we aim to showcase this year.

We are not showcasing best practice to encourage you to show off. We are showcasing it to ensure that all those fine words of year one and two turn into meaningful action in year three – and that businesses small as well as large join lead Climate Crisis Challenge partners Argent, Barclays and Mishcon de Reya and supporting partner chapmanbdsp, on the journey to net zero.

Only then can the threat be turned into opportunity.