Tag Archives: Paris

Pushing beyond Paris

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The UN Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) meets in San Francisco, California from 12-14 September 2018, and in addition to the physical meeting, actors around the world are invited to participate by demonstrating the depth and range of climate action in their sectors and geographies to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

This raises the question what have we done in the (business, regional, national and global) built environment to contribute to the Paris Change Agreement. The ILFI through Living Building Challenge is one of the few building standards that seek to meet the Paris Agreement, and One Planet Living through its alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet we no longer have the luxury of only less bad is not good enough and as is becoming increasingly obvious, meeting the Paris targets may not be enough, and ‘good’ is now looking way beyond the 1.5 DegC aspirational targets.

The UK Construction 2025 Vision, launched in 2013, set a target of 50% reductions in built environment carbon emissions by 2025. Indications are that we are far from achieving this. (A 2015 BRE analysis showed that BREEAM assessed buildings achieve an average 22% reduction in CO2 emissions). We only have a handful of projects setting real carbon reduction targets. Yet we know we will have to improve on the 50% and get to 80 percent by 2033 if we are to meet the 1.5 degree target .

Better technology and design alone will not get us there without a shift towards a worldview thinking, that embraces regenerative system approaches, and sees the built environment within the context of wider ecological systems.

The California Summit is focused on taking ambition to the next level through five key issue areas: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.

All of the five key issues areas are built environment related, with the sector being a contributor to the problem, but can also deliver a significant solution, particular so on the sustainable communities challenge:

The sustainable communities challenge is an effort led by cities to create buildings, communities and infrastructure that are clean, healthy, and livable. Cities can encourage community driven climate projects, a transition to net zero carbon buildings through the World Green Buildings Council and a progression towards zero waste.

Healthy energy systems can prevent dangerous effects from climate change. They can be achieved through a shift toward clean and equitable energy in addition to building a decarbonized energy and transportation system aligned with scientifically founded action requirements.

  • Action you can take: Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and make electric transport the new normal by 2030 by joining the EV100 initiative.

Inclusive economic growth requires climate leadership in business, clean technology, and an energy transition that fosters good jobs while spurring inclusive global economic development.

Land and ocean stewardship focuses on the role that forests, food, lands and other ecosystems must play in mitigating climate change and making our world more resilient, while also ensuring sufficient food supplies for a growing population. This climate action pathway requires support of sustainable food systems, conservation of resilient landscapes that deliver climate solutions, technical and financial support for new stewardship projects, and transparency, engagement, and investment from industry actors.

  • Action you can take: Implementing climate friendly land use, conservation, and agriculture policies. The 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge’s goals is to achieve 30% of climate solutions by 2030 through improved agricultural and land use practices.

Transformative climate investments will require the mobilization of investment on an unprecedented scale to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Investors, considering their financial duties to clients and beneficiaries, are encouraged to act in one or more of the following four areas: Investment, corporate engagement, investor disclosure, and policy advocacy.

  • Action you can take: Commit to the use of green bonds for infrastructure investment and ask investors to invest in them. The Green Bond Pledge coordinated in part by Ceres is an initiative you can join.

Lastly, if you wish to inspire others who may wish to participate in the Global Climate Action Summit challenges, you can:

  1. Encourage your firm or community to find ways to take part in one of the five key climate action challenges.
  2. Share this video with your colleagues and business network so that they can also join the movement in raising global climate ambition.
  3. Follow the action on social media through the UNFCCC and the Global Climate Action Summit accounts:

 

Source: https://unfccc.int/news/rise-to-meet-the-global-climate-action-summit-challenges

 

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M2020 – The Carbon Tipping Point

The ambitious but achievable carbon M2020 initiative, launched by Christiana Figueres in London this week, sets out carbon emission reduction ‘pathways’ to meet the temperature goals agreed in Paris back in 2015

Bending the curve of emissions by 2020 is the only way to limit global warming and ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals remain within our reach. It will also pave the way to delivering a just transition to net zero emissions by 2050.

The year 2020 is seen as a critical turning point in expediting the least expensive transition to a safer fossil-free economy by 2050.

M2020

M2020 sets out 6 milestones for 2020, to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and to be Net Zero by 2050. With regards to the built environment, Milestone 2 for Infrastructure is clear:

(By 2020) … Cities and states have established plans and are implementing policies and regulations with the aim to fully decarbonise infrastructure by 2050. 

Whilst this aligns with our UK Construction 2025 Vision for 50% lower emissions  by 2025, the other milestones (Energy, Transport, Industry, Land Use and Finance) would have profound impacts on the design, construction and operation of our buildings and cities:

 

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With carbon reduction now being recognised as one of todays most important public health interventions, it is now an imperative for built environment organisations to include carbon reduction commitments and ‘pathways’ within their sustainability, responsibility and health strategies. Indeed, as John Elkington wrote in a recent article, carbon management and carbon ‘productivity’ must become, and is becoming the centre of our sustainability world, but that we don’t have the time to delay waiting for a carbon mindset shift.

And, as we have discussed in recent sustainability workshops – its time to collaboratively rethink the construction process .. planning for construction without fossil fuels. 

 

“This Changes Everything” Paris Agreement and the Built Environment

That the Paris Agreement has come into force today, 4th November 2016, some four years early, now ratified by the requisite number of nations, is a huge milestone and speaks volumes for the global recognition and consensus to reduce carbon emissions.

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Back in December in Paris, the built environment was recognised as a major contributor to the carbon problem as well as having a major role to play in a low carbon sustainable future. (See How significant was the first Buildings Day at COP21?)

Now, then, is the time to review our approaches to taking carbon out of the built environment, through design, through the operation of buildings and in the manufacture and construction processes.

Through ConstructCO2 we know that up to 70% of construction carbons are travel and transport related, and much of this through diesel fuelled vehicles, further adding to our air quality problems and stretched health services. Construction transport impact must now be a primary target for sustainable construction.

In the UK, our most recent industry target is within Construction 2025 Vision – to reduce emissions by 50% by 2025. Consider however that this was written when the consensus for carbon reduction was based on a 2 degree target for temperature increase. We are now looking at 1.5 degree as the emerging consensus, and that changes everything.

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There is a sense of urgency here, and as I explored and commented within FutuREstorative ‘we no longer have the luxury of being only less bad’ but need to be doing more good, and in doing so heal the future.

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In 2015 the UK Green Construction Board noted that ‘reducing built environment carbon emissions (50% from 1990 levels by 2025) is now out of reach with current practice’, and as Namoi Klein wrote in This Changes Everything (2015) “There are no non-radical approaches left before us in addressing climate change’

But we do have approaches, tools and initiatives to ensure that the built environment can contribute to a 1.5 degree future, again as explored in FutuREstorative and illustrated here in this infographic:

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As we celebrate the Paris Agreement coming into force, lets also take the opportunity to look forward and start working collaboratively within the built environment towards a 1.5 degree future. And in doing so,to address the other hugely important aspects of the Paris Agreement, adopt the Sustainable Development Goals.

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The Price of Construction Carbons

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Distribution of Construction CO2

ConstructCO2 now allows the calculation of a ‘shadow’ carbon price for carbon emissions from the construction process. The default price is set at £29 / tonne, based on current available data as used by other organisations within their shadow carbon pricing exercises (1) However ConstructCO2 also allows for any user or project to set their own carbon price.

Carbon pricing is increasingly being used to drive carbon reductions, through internal costing arrangements, and as awareness or preparation for what many see as an inevitable carbon future regulations or taxation.

In the light of the Paris Agreement, the calls from businesses and activists to put a price on carbon are becoming louder. To keep global warming below the Paris target of 2 deg C, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world will need to get to zero net emissions urgently.

Construction processes are part of the climate change problem but a vital part of the solution , and by introducing an operating cost by factoring emissions into bottom-line calculations through carbon pricing will be part of the construction industry contribution to carbon reduction.

See FT article: Companies accelerate use of carbon pricing and for example the advertising group WPP, who use an internal price of £29 a tonne of CO2 when buying or refitting buildings to understand “the impact of future energy and carbon regulations on our business”.

2016 Built Environment Challenges

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One: 2016 is the year Building Information Management in the UK becomes mandated for public sector projects. Our ongoing challenge is increasing the scope and application, across all the built environment sectors and organisations, moving us towards a digital and data driven industry.

Two: The 2015 Paris Agreement sets ambitious intent to cap global warming to 1.5deg C. Current built environment sustainability strategies and approaches are based around a 2deg cap, with targets too low or too slow. Our challenge is to enable the built environment to play it part, for which we will need all the restorative sustainability tools we have at our disposal. We need to flip our 40% negative impact, but can no longer seek to be near zero or net positive but need to push towards being demonstrably ‘very positive’.

ThreeHealth is the new GreenBuild. We have seen a big increase in health and wellbeing awareness with biophilia now firmly within the sector’s lexicon. Our challenge is to ensure health and wellbeing is a key driver in design, in materials, in the construction process and within building operations.

Four: our biggest opportunity is to now create the conditions that allow for leadership in integrated and collaborative thinking, combining the innovative approaches and development from the BIM, Restorative Sustainability and Healthy Buildings agendas.

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These challenges are explored in depth in forthcoming RIBA Book:
FutuREstorative

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

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