After nearly two weeks, the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference ended this Saturday in Glasgow. It gathered world leaders alongside business and citizens in twelve days of talks to discuss and agree on how to tackle the climate crisis.
There are different opinions on the results of what was considered by some to be the last best chance to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 C degrees and avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Nearly 200 countries adopted the Glasgow Climate Pact with unprecedented references to the role of fossil fuels, strengthening support for poorer countries and fighting climate change in the climate crisis. However, experts are calling these efforts nowhere near ambitious enough.
In this context, the built environment has elevated itself as a critical climate solution like never before. With buildings consuming a third part of the energy produced and being responsible for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions, the built environment plays a central role in supporting the transition towards a net-zero carbon emissions economy. The announcements in this industry have hit many breakthrough accomplishments.
Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day
November 11th was dedicated to Cities, Regions and Built Environment with different business leaders and policymakers discussing the collaborative solutions that can accelerate climate action over the next decade.
The coalition #BuildingToCOP26, a group of organisations catalyzing climate action in cities, regions and the built environment announced 26 climate action initiatives marking a climate breakthrough for the built environment. The full list can be consulted in this link. Among these, are:
- Race to Zero – 1.2 trillion real estate assets under management are now a part of Race to Zero through which they have committed to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
- 1049 cities representing 722 million people have joined Race to Zero, representing a potential to reduce global emissions by 1.4 gigatons annually by 2030.
- A total of 136 countries now include buildings in their Nationally Determined Contributions. By 2030, 65 percent of population growth will occur in countries that now have building energy efficiency and/or building codes to improve energy performance.
- Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap – The anticipated report from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has been released, detailing the necessary actions the government and industry must take to achieve net zero across the built environment sector. The roadmap sets out a shared vision and set of actions in relation to construction, operation and demolition of buildings and infrastructure.
- Beyond the Business Case – The World Green Building Council (WGBC) launched a groundbreaking report outlining why real estate can’t afford NOT to invest in sustainability. The report aims to drive investment in a sustainable built environment by demonstrating social benefits, lower or equivalent costs at construction and operation, risk mitigation, higher asset values, etc.
Source: Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap – WGBC
With these 26 initiatives, the coalition expects to achieve the following shared global climate goals for the built environment industry:
- By 2030, 100% of new buildings must be net-zero carbon in operation and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40%.
- By 2050, at the latest, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle, including operational and embodied emissions.
- In parallel to decarbonisation targets, building resilience into the transformation of the built environment is critical to support urban populations and vulnerable communities in the face of future climate impacts.
Climate change and the developing world
Climate change is having a significant impact on developing countries with low coping capacity. Industrialized countries, who have gone past their turning point to achieve economic prosperity, need to embrace their obligation toward most vulnerable countries.
They have a leading role to play not only to accelerate their transition locally but also to actively facilitate transitions across the globe.The EU has pledged €100 million ($114 million) out of the $326 million currently pledged in the climate adaptation fund. The UK launched the new Urban Climate Action programme; a £27.5 million funding to support developing cities reduce their emissions and grow sustainable.
The UK also has made a call for cities to make commitments to step up in combating climate change. Business and Energy Minister Lord Callanan said: “At COP26 today we are calling on cities, regions, governments and businesses to seize the moment and set bold net-zero targets as we work together as a global community to end our contribution to climate change.”
Decision-makers will need to integrate efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change and adapt to changing climatic conditions. The EU new Bauhaus is an opportunity to strike research partnerships across the world focusing on ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaptation.
The task ahead
We cannot achieve a net-zero without upgrading existing buildings. It is a crucial tool to hit emissions targets. Transitioning from a passive building to a smart autonomous asset improves energy efficiency, health, and safety of tenants, as well as buildings owners’ finances. Sustainability is creating economic value for companies and represents important business opportunities. In fact, according to buildingtocop, efficient buildings will be an investment opportunity worth $24.7 trillion by 2030.
The building industry has demonstrated its capacity for change as it is setting unprecedented actions and goals. By adopting sustainable practices at all stages of the life cycle, we can reduce our impact on the current climate crisis on time. As one of the largest economic ecosystems in the world, it has a critical role to play.
The end of COP26 only marks the beginning of actions and commitments agreed; a big task is ahead and all actors have a great responsibility. We must leverage technologies, strengthen cooperation, and support innovation to mitigate the effects of climate change. We must act collectively with a sense of urgency.
The race has already started. The time is now to embark on a radical transformation.
Written by Yuri Balvin, Project Manager at Envio Systems