Liam Lawson Jones, Vice Chair of the CPA NextGen Committee and Senior Planning Consultant at Gerald Eve and Charlotte Youngs, CPA NextGen committee member and Senior Solicitor at Macfarlanes LLP have written the following response to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report highlighting key changes the property industry can make to address the climate emergency.
The publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report issues a stark warning of what is in store for the world and should strike a call to action for all of us to do more in the effort to mitigate the effects of climate change.
As built environment professionals, we all have a responsibility to be aware of what we can do in our roles, our companies and our sector as a whole to ensure that action is taken at all levels to make a difference.
The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report is regarded as the most comprehensive assessment of the world’s climate and it highlights a number of trends which raise concern. It sets out that human behaviour is an “unequivocal” cause of global warming which is already affecting every region on earth, CO2 levels are their highest in two million years, and our previously established Climate Goals are slipping beyond reach. Most importantly, it highlights that every piece of climate action can make a difference and will be crucial in slowing dangerous trends.
The CPA Next Gen are going to explore a series of sustainability topics over the next few months in the lead up to COP26 in November.
Buildings are responsible for a substantial proportion of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions with estimates suggesting the built environment accounts for about 45% of annual carbon emissions, within urban areas, buildings (business and residential uses) are estimated to contribute 32% of UK carbon emissions1 and account for 50% of raw material consumption and 60% of the UK’s waste2.
The UK is already set to fail to meet the established carbon budgets set by the Climate Change Act 2008 (the “CCA 2008”). The Environment Bill (the “Bill”) currently being debated by Parliament is intended to add further targets linked to sustainability in respect of air, water, waste and biodiversity alongside the CCA 2008 targets. Although, the Bill’s targets are not likely to be fully defined and implemented until late 2022 based on the timeline included in the Bill at present.
At a policy level in the Square Mile, the recent adoption of the London Plan and emerging local policy and guidance has shifted the dial in terms of expectations for new developments to achieve greater reductions in carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency, alongside introducing a framework for assessing how demolition of buildings impacts the environment. This framework seeks to minimise waste from all parts of development by employing circular economy principles and assessing whole life carbon in terms of both the embodied and operational carbon impacts of development.
The development community have largely aligned with these policy expectations and sustainability in all forms is something which is being demanded by occupiers, investors and owners. With this in mind, we challenge the development community to innovate, drive change and do more than pay lip service to sustainability. We demand that building owners recognise the urgency of the matter at hand and challenge all major landlords, investors and operators within the built environment sector to put forward and implement a climate action plan to meet their climate goals.
We all have a role to play in addressing the climate emergency. The impacts of the pandemic on the way we use cities provide us with immense challenges, and also the opportunity to make a once in a generation change in the way that we think about buildings in their development, occupation and transaction. We all have a duty to challenge each other to aspire for excellence and constant innovation and growth to meet our shared goal of creating a more sustainable earth. We will be judged by the actions we take as individuals, professionals, organisations and industries and we urge the CPA Membership to join us in meeting this challenge.
We look forward to welcoming members back to a series of events both in person and virtual in the run up to COP 26 and continuing the discussion about sustainability and climate change.