The hottest year on record
As the dust from Dubai starts to settle, and as we draw close to the end of 2023, we asked Sophie Goddard, Director of Sustainability at Canary Wharf Group and Vice Chair of the BPF Sustainability Committee, to share her reflections both on COP28 and on the work of the committee.
Sometimes these big international events can feel quite remote from our everyday lives. But climate change is a global problem which needs a global solution. The fact that this year is likely to be the hottest year on record shows that time really is running out. So, what happens at these UN climate talks really matters.
It matters for all individuals and businesses. But it particularly matters for the property industry as our carbon footprint is second only to transport, with buildings accounting for around 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK.
That is why, for me, one of the key takeaways from COP28 was the increased focus on buildings and the built environment. The big announcements - on “transitioning” away from fossil fuels in energy systems, more funding for those countries already suffering damage from climate change, the commitment to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 – are all hugely important.
But I was really pleased to see buildings and the built environment feature more prominently in the talks, certainly compared to previous years. And a couple of the major announcements - on doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvements every year until 2030 and the launch of the Buildings Breakthrough initiative, where countries have committed to work together to make net zero and resilient buildings the norm by 2030 – are directly relevant to the industry.
Of course, the success of COP28 will ultimately be judged by what countries do and not by what they say.
And that applies to the UK too.
The UK has signed up to the various commitments and pledges, including those directly relevant to buildings, but what will that mean in practical and policy terms?
BPF Sustainability Committee
This is where I think the BPF has a critical role to play.
As an industry there is a lot we can do right now to cut our emissions and make our buildings more sustainable and more energy efficient. However, we will not complete the transition to a net zero carbon industry without the right policy and regulatory framework in place. This is why the BPF’s policy and advocacy work is so essential.
This year, supported by the Sustainability Committee, the BPF published Towards Net Zero, its first major report looking at the policy and regulatory barriers to delivering net zero homes and buildings, and it’s been great to see the progress made against the various BPF policy recommendations. The committee is now working with the BPF on new research looking into the data challenges faced by property investors and owners in the transition to net zero. And I know first-hand how critical data is to both understanding the energy performance of your buildings and to reassuring investors and regulators and other stakeholders on the impact of your buildings on the environment!
This year the committee has also started to look beyond the net zero carbon challenges to discuss social impact and social value and to explore the industry’s role in protecting and restoring nature. This is something we are passionate about at Canary Wharf Group where we’ve partnered with the Eden Project to transform our public realm to create a place for both nature and people showing how we can support biodiversity in an urban environment.
I know 2024 will be another really busy year both for the BPF and the BPF Sustainability Committee. But we have a hugely experienced and passionate group of committee members drawn from right across the built environment and that gives me confidence that, whatever the challenges ahead, we have the right people around the table to help support the BPF’s policy work and to help the wider property industry transition to a net zero and sustainable future.