How significant was the first Buildings Day at COP21?

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In coming years, hopefully very significant. This was the first time that the built environment has been recognised as important in any global, United Nation climate change summit.

We now have the recognition that buildings and construction have a major impact and influence on climate changes, being part of the problem but also key to climate change solutions

My thoughts from following inspiring feeds from Paris and elsewhere, through the twitter hashtags of #COP21, #BuildingsDay #BuildBetterGreen #BackClimateAction and others:

I felt ashamed by the approach of our government in weakening and dismantling sustainability strategies for homes and buildings whilst others around the world are deepening their green building strategies

That the built environment players (leaders, companies, advocates, agencies, academics) all need to collaborate to ensure a sub 2 degrees warming path is central to sustainability strategies

Not once did I see BIM mentioned or cited as part of the building environment solution. BIM needs to engage with the leaders and decision makers who are shaping the design, construction and operation of buildings.

Encouraged to hear of net positive approaches, being restorative and regenerative in built environment sustainability approaches. Not only for carbon reduction but for social and health strategies to be ‘net-positive’

Encouragingly there have been many great pledges from GBC members around the world – including the UK.

Whilst major contractors and manufacturers were visible in making commitments or presenting the built environment world of contracting, of SME’s and supply chains right across the sector still needs to engage, and understand that business as usual may not be that usual in the coming year.

Finally – with the built environments impact on climate change, often quoted as 40% of the problem, making the real change to get on a sub 2 degree global warming path may seem impossible. Globally, through design and construction we need to reduce emissions by 84 GtCO2 by 2050 – thats taking over 22.000 coal fired power stations out of service.

Yet impossible is only a challenge – and as Steve Jobs said – its kind of fun to do the impossible.

What Is COP21?

Understand COP21 in these 7 graphics (via Green Biz)

France is chairing and hosting the 21 th Conference of Parties to the Framework UN Convention on Climate Change (COP21 / CMP11) from 30 November to 11 December 2015. This is a crucial conference since it must lead to a new international climate agreement, applicable to all, to keep global warming below 2 ° C.

18 countries (Austria, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Senegal, Singapore, Sweden, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United States of America), and over 60 organisations launched an unprecedented Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to speed up and scale up the sector’s huge potential to reduce its emissions and literally build greater climate resilience into future cities and infrastructure.

Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction to Combat Climate Change

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Mobilising the Construction Sector for Climate Action

We now know that buildings and the built environment are a key factor to our climate change problem, whilst at the same time, a vital part of climate change solutions.

2015 is seen by many as the turning point in the fight against climate change. In December, France hosts the 21st “Conference of the Parties”, or COP21, with a goal of reaching a binding agreement to limit global warning to between 1.5degC to 2degC.

Without significant action by the built environment sector, this target can not be met

December 2015 


The built environment sector’s crucial role in mitigating climate change is finally being recognised. For the first time in the history of climate negotiations, A ‘Buildings Day’ will be held December 3 at the COP21 UN conference on climate change in Paris.

  • Helping to put the buildings and construction sector on the below 2 °C path
  • Aligning existing initiatives, commitments and programmes to achieve greater scale and increase the pace of efficiency actions
  • Catalysing stronger collaboration and targeting sectoral and cross sectoral climate action and solutions for all

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Now then, is the time for every built environment organisation; funder; client; designer; constructor; and maintainer, to revisit and to recommit to sustainability goals that will not only seek to limit global warming through reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, but also seek to be net positive.

More than 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions are buildings related, with emissions from buildings set to double by 2050 if we continue business as usual. Not addressing climate change will increase the risks and vulnerability of countries, regions and local communities. The forecast rapid urbanisation, without action will accelerate impacts.

Yet:

  • The built environment sector offers one of the most cost-effective and economically beneficial paths for reducing energy demand and associated emissions while at the same time supporting adaptation and resilience to climate change.
  • Many low-energy, renewable and deep renovation solutions are available. Proven policy, finance and technology actions exist.
  • The economic, health, and social benefits of sustainable buildings are significant. Buildings provide shelter, places to live, work, learn and socialise, directly affecting our daily lives. Providing more than 50 per cent of global wealth, and one of the largest employers at local level, the sector also offers a path to poverty alleviation.
  • Buildings are long-term ventures. Today’s new buildings are tomorrow’s existing stock. Failure to act now would lock in growth in GHG emissions for decades.

Better Build Green is the World Green Building Council’s new campaign which focuses on the UN climate change negotiations – COP21 in Paris. The campaign aims to show the world that green buildings offer one of the best and most cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and help keep global temperature rises within the two degrees limit. The message is simple: not only had we better build green if we are to reach a two-degree world tomorrow, but we are better off today if we do.

Sources:

UN Environment Programme Buildings Day 

Friends of Europe

Better Build Green

The New Economy – Why Buildings Matter in Fights Against Climate Change

Fairsnape iSite: Beyond Sustainability

Beyond sustainability: Buildings are a climate change problem … and also part of the solution.

Buildings are a climate change problem … and also part of the solution. With buildings responsible for an estimated 40% of all carbon emissions and having a huge influence of lifestyle, commerce and industry carbon reduction efforts, we can now longer afford to incrementally be less bad. And this year, 2015, being a significant year for climate change action, with the COP21 in Paris in December and the imminent release of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it is time to recognise the role of buildings as a climate change solution.

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Beyond Sustainability, as you may have seen in the media, via social media or by invite, is our significant event in London on the 5th Oct. The event highlight will be Jason McLennan’s (CEO International Living Futures Institute) first UK keynote, which promises to be an inspiring call to do more good, as being less bad is not just enough anymore

The event will also include an overview of Living Building Challenge and Well Building Standard activity in the UK from Martin Brown, Fairsnape, and Ann Marie Aguilar, Arup Associates.  Hattie Hartman (Sustainability Editor at AJ) will chair a panel debate, featuring regenerative and well being sustainability activity in the UK from a range of presenters.  In addition John Alker UKGBC will introduce the UKGBC’s new campaign ‘Better Places for People‘ 

There will, of course, be opportunity for Q and A panel debates with speakers.

Please take this as your invite to attend. The event will held appropriately, in the wonderful Royal College of Physicians building on Regents Park. More details and how you can you can still register here.

Jason F. McLennan Keynote speaker:

Considered one of the most influential individuals in the green building movement today and the recipient of prestigious Buckminster Fuller Prize (the planet’s top prize for socially responsible design), Jason F. McLennan’s work has made a pivotal impact on the shape and direction of green building in the United States and Canada and he is a much sought after designer, presenter and consultant on a wide variety of green building and sustainability topics around the world.