UN Climate Action Summit shapes future for buildings and industry
The UN Climate Action Summit covered a vast amount of topics and information but we have zeroed in on two main focus themes that have the key pragmatic takeaways your business will need going forward. In this article we explore how engagement strategies and science-based targets will be crucial to building climate resilience into your business strategy.
Focus One: Buildings
To quote Cristina Camboa, the CEO of the World Green Building Council; “the buildings and construction sector can act and must respond to the climate emergency.” Given that building operations equate to around one-third of the global emissions contributing to climate change, there is little surprise that there was such a large focus on buildings at the Summit. There were three main outcomes of the Summit’s focus on buildings; zero carbon building commitments, energy efficiency targets and cooling conversations.
The ‘Zero Carbon Buildings for All’ initiative was launched last week. In order to meet the Paris goals, all buildings must be net zero by 2050 however, less than 1% of buildings globally are already net zero. To drive this 70 of the Green Building Councils all over the world have been influencing the market through guidelines and commitments on their project ‘Advancing Net Zero’. To drive this market transformation further, many governments committed to driving regulation in this area whilst at the summit, UK being one of them.
Secondly, the Three Percent Club announced their commitment to a three percent annual global increase in energy efficiency across businesses and countries. The target aligns to the requirements under the Paris agreement and the sustainable development goal ‘Affordable and Clean Energy’. Supporters of this initiative are also required to commit to one or more public energy efficiency commitment platforms such as science-based targets or EV100.
Lastly, named the ‘blindspot of climate action’ the summit focused on the impact and consequences of cooling in an ever-warming environment. The Cool Coalition has been set up to drive and deliver a rapid global transition to efficient and climate-friendly cooling. In a seemingly catch-22, we need to increase our cooling as the planet warms. Whilst cooling itself is contributing to planetary heating, the coalition and its supporting countries have pledged to adopt comprehensive national cooling plans regulations and guidelines for refrigerating appliances and air conditioners.
- There is now a national commitment in the UK for all buildings to be net-zero by 2050, therefore landlords should look to pursue net-zero action plans and renters can expect to be increasingly engaged by landlords to monitor building performance and building-use.
- The focus on energy efficiency will continue grow and therefore an increase in landlord-tenant interaction is expected to be seen for efficiency achievement through collaboration. Your business should consider developing and/or improving an engagement programme to maximise the impact from tenant and landlord relationships.
- Within the real estate sector, compliance and regulation will likely grow more stringent and as the market shifts, competitor pressure and asset benchmarking will increase in intensity.
Focus Two: Industry
A number of energy-intensive sectors were highlighted at the summit, including steel, cement, aluminium, aviation and shipping. The summit highlighted their collaborative commitment to joint investment towards the reduction of global emissions from their sectors. The Summit introduced a new pledge named “Business Ambitions for 1.5°C – Our Only Future”. Within this coalition, the companies commit to addressing the climate emergency by committing to set science-based targets aligned with a 1.5°C trajectory. This commitment covered 87 companies with a market capitalization of US$2.3 trillion signalling a strong industry commitment to a net-zero future.
Alongside industry action, coal remains a strong topic of conversation on the climate agenda. The ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ saw 30 countries commit to stopping the building of new coal power plants in 2020 and transitioning to renewable energy, including some of the most coal-reliant countries globally and including the UK.
- Sectoral and supply chain collaboration is going to be required to increase as a key solution to beating the climate crisis.
- The Summit saw another injection of market pressure to commit to science-based targets. If you don’t want your business to get left behind, you should look into setting an SBT as soon as possible.
- Given the value chain commitments required under SBTs, if your business doesn’t look to pursue target setting, your customers and industry partners will be likely start to request it from you as part of their supplier engagement value chain targets.
- In order to support national and global commitments, review your energy provider and power past the coal by switching over energy providers to renewable energy.
Other themes from the summit included a focus on cities including sustainable infrastructure, city planning and enabling sustainable mobility. There was also a large focus on sustainable finance, such as the Green Climate Fund, being a key enabler to unlock the global climate solutions needed. The UN Climate Action Week was an excellent progress stamp to reinvigorate the climate agenda at national government levels ahead of COP25 in Chile this December.
With growing momentum from across the globe through school strikes to declarations of climate emergencies, it is expected that nations will continue to make commitments to net-zero strategies and supporting regulations. This means now is the time to consider how resilient your business is to the urgent risk of climate change and the strategies and steps you can take to both mitigate and adapt to a very different looking future.