COP26: an opportunity for the built environment to lead the net zero transition

If COP26 is about governments and world leaders agreeing what they are going to do – how can the rest of us get involved? Julia shares her views.

6 September 2021

At the end of October, the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties will be held in Glasgow. COP26 as it is otherwise known will bring together world leaders to accelerate action towards tackling global temperature rises. A bit like a G7 conference but for the climate, this year’s conference will be led by Alok Sharma, who as President for COP26 has been actively negotiating with parties ahead of the conference.

COP26 will be a significant event, being the first to follow the landmark Paris Agreements, where in 2015, almost all countries signed an agreement to restrict global temperature rises this century to 'well below' 2°C above pre-industrial levels, whilst pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5°C. Coupled with the recent ‘code red for humanity’ warning following the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, governments around the world will be held accountable on what, exactly, they are going to do to halt the effects of climate change.

Furthermore, on 11 November, for the first time, the Climate Change conference will address carbon emissions from buildings. With the built environment contributing to nearly 40% of global emissions, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution.

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If COP26 is about governments and world leaders agreeing what they are going to do – how can the rest of us get involved?

It's important for our industry to raise awareness of the impact of the built environment, to demonstrate how we can help reduce it and also how we can help adapt existing and future-proof new buildings against the inevitable changes in climate and weather. We are one of 100+ UK organisations who have joined forces to create a Built Environment Virtual Pavilion, a platform for global industry leaders to share sustainable built environment solutions and a space for the public to engage with these solutions.

Furthermore, given that we are hosting COP26, the Government is urging UK businesses to sign up to the UNFCC’s Race to Zero campaign. Whilst we were an early signatory as part of our commitment to Science Based Targets, smaller UK businesses are being encouraged to sign up via the UK Business Climate Hub.

We believe that collaboration is key to driving net zero ambitions across the industry and were delighted last year to become a founding signatory of UK Contractors Declare which is an initiative where UK contractors can publicly signal their commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It’s free to sign up to and is a way to celebrate their commitment whilst inspiring and learning from others in the industry on similar sustainability journeys.

Embracing the opportunity of sustainability can help you save money, delight your customers, and attract and retain great people whilst making your business more resilient. There really isn’t a downside to getting involved ahead of COP26 and playing your part in leaving a better planet for future generations.

We have already supported and advised 38 organisations with their net zero plans – we’d love to help more.

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