A Global Perspective, in a Green Week for GB

18 Oct 2018

Our Assistant Director, Alex Green, blogs about the recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

As we celebrate the first ever Green GB & NI Week we would be hard pushed to identify a more historically significant moment for the state of our planet’s climate.

This November will mark 10 years since the Climate Change Act (2008), a cross party initiative that established a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050. This is an achievement that should be celebrated and built upon, and the real estate industry has shown a willingness to play a part in these efforts.

Last week however, marked a potential turning point for the rate of change needed to tackle the significant impacts of climate change globally, and the built environment must take stock. On the 6th of October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its special report on the impact of anthropogenic global warming, in which it focusses on an increase of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. The report notes that we are currently on a trajectory to hit 1.5 °C at some point between 2030 and 2052.

The IPCC’s report paints a stark picture for the world’s ecosystems, resources, and inhabited areas if warming is not limited to 1.5 °C. The report’s focus on 1.5 °C of warming is predicated on the fact that adaptation and mitigation will be made significantly more challenging at 2 °C. It also notes that the impacts of climate change will still be felt at 1.5 °C of warming, but that this represents a best-case scenario when considering the options. The conclusion is that in no scenario will inaction be sufficient.

Of particular relevance to the built environment, the report states that we need:

“rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and buildings), and industrial systems. These systems transitions are unprecedented in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant upscaling of investments in those options.”     

Whilst a globally workable response to the challenges of climate change will - in this context - require a concerted and collaborative effort across governments, sectors, and geographies, we need not look much further than our own industry for inspiration.

The first ever Green GB & NI Week (15- 19 Oct) has been punctuated by; some of the UK’s largest companies (including in real estate) pledging action to tackle climate change[1] and seven major UK property developers committing to overcome the building energy performance gap[2] through pioneering developments. Whilst these are immediately current examples, many more can be found across the breadth of the industry. They are however highly relevant as they exemplify the leadership role that the real estate industry can and does play.    

The need for change has already been widely acknowledged within the built environment, and we have seen this exhibited in efficiency measures through retrofits, the uptake of renewable and low-carbon technologies, and many investment and development decisions. However, in the context of the IPCC’s report and a likely net-zero carbon global future, sustainable practices will have to become the rule and not the exception, not only to ensure future growth, but to ensure any future at all for those at greatest risk.


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uks-largest-companies-pledge-hundreds-of-millions-of-pounds-to-tackle-climate-change?utm_source=7fb16a92-adc3-448b-bb33-2b16ed469b0e&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=daily

[2] http://www.betterbuildingspartnership.co.uk/pioneering-developers-adopt-radical-approach-energy-performance