Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, today warned the property industry it must help occupiers address issues of climate change now or face a catastrophic reduction in the efficiency of UK businesses in the future.

Speaking at to delegates at the Investment Property Databank/CBI Property in Business conference this morning, Lambert told occupiers they risked cutting global GDP by as much 20% if they delayed tackling the problem of sustainability and carbon emissions – a situation he described as ‘a catastrophe of an almost unimaginable scale.’

He said: ‘The RICS suggests that businesses waste around £18bn every year through inefficient management of premises. So the challenge remains for property management to continue to improve in order to help UK businesses compete. It needn’t come down to a choice between economic growth and environmental protection. Tackling climate change really does make business sense.’

Lambert continued his passionate speech by arguing that the climate change agenda could not be divorced from property – a fact which puts even more pressure on the industry to respond quickly and effectively.

‘Property and energy use are inseparable,’ he said. ‘The fact is that around half of all carbon dioxide emissions are from the built environment – with commercial property alone responsible for 17% of all energy use in the UK. Commercial properties are much more varied in type than houses – think of a refrigerated warehouse in the East Midlands and the Gherkin. But that’s not a reason for inaction. But let’s be sure we’ve stretched every sinew to show what the market can do and to put forward constructive solutions to one of the greatest challenges of our time.’

He announced the launch of the CBI’s Climate Change Task Force – a special network of chairmen and chief executives from some of the UK’s biggest companies to produce recommendations for action to tackle the problem by business, the Government and the CBI itself.