“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.

cop21 article 2 draft

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.

construction-2025-headlines

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.

less-bad-more-good-chart

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:

carbon-image

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.

Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_Goals

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Sustainia publishes 100 innovative solutions to support SDG’s

Over the last five years the Sustainia100 publication from Sustainia has always been a welcomed and inspiring read. Over this period It has tracked more than 4,500 solutions to date from all over the world. This year’s edition features solutions deployed in 188 countries, and more than half come from small and mid-sized enterprises. Showcasing everything from health solutions that tackle climate change, to renewable energy products that alleviate gender inequality, this year’s publication presents 100 solutions that respond to interconnected global challenges and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Chart_of_UN_Sustainable_Development_Goals

 

  • Four key trends:
    • Cities as Health Promoters
    • Making Profit from Unlikely Materials
    • Disrupting the Electrical Grid
    • People Powered Data for Better Infrastructure
  • Many Building related innovations and solutions are included, of particular note are:
    • Making Carpet Tiles from Old Fishing Nets (Interface / Aquafil)
    • Legislated Green Roofs and Solar Panels (France)
    • Growing Bricks with Bacteria (bioMason)
    • Green Bonds for Low Impact Building projects (Vasakronan)
    • Cement Free Mortar (KALK)
    • Solar Powered Water Purification (Desolenator)
    • Cities and Health: Using Communities to Bolster Health
    • Solar Storage Community Platform (Sonnen)

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Read the Sustainia  100 online here. The publication was launched on 7th June with an accompanying tweetchat, a storify record of which can be found on line, for example:

Q1: What does sustainable action mean to you ?

Q3 How have the #SDGs changed sustainable innovation?

Q8: What do you think is the next big opportunity in sustainability?