November 11th 2021

The COP26 Cities, Regions & Built Environment Day is Here! Let’s Make it Count

The COP26 Cities, Regions & Built Environment Day is Here! Let’s Make it Count

Today marks a much anticipated day in the buildings industry calendar - the Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day at COP26. A day which the COP26 presidency has promised will bring together national, regional and city level leaders, alongside the private sector, to deliver deep collaboration to accelerate climate action across the built environment over the next decade.

To say the day is significant for our sector would be an understatement. International partners from across the industry fought hard for a dedicated Built Environment day at the summit to show the world the unique opportunity the built environment presents to deliver powerful net-zero solutions. Bearing in mind the statistic that is all too familiar to us here at IES – that buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions – it is encouraging to see that the call was heard and today, six years since the very first Buildings Day at COP21, we have the chance to make our voices heard.

Many challenges lie ahead, and we certainly won’t solve them all today. However, it is important that we take the opportunity to use this platform to draw global attention to some startling facts. If you’ve been following our partners at the #BuildingtoCOP coalition (of which IES are members) you might already be aware that:

  • By 2050, 1.6 billion urban dwellers will be regularly exposed to extreme high temperatures
  • Over 800 million people living in more than 570 cities will be vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding
  • By 2060 the world’s building stock will double and almost 70% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas
  • Most countries that have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the UNFCCC do not include full building decarbonisation targets and certain areas such as building materials are under addressed

To address these issues, and to help limit warming to no more than 1.5℃ as set out in the Paris Agreement, the BuildingtoCOP Coalition has called for emissions from building projects globally to be halved by 2030, and to reach net zero life-cycle emissions for all buildings by no later than 2050. The Coalition is promoting radical collaboration across the built environment system and spotlighting frontrunner action, solutions and policy pathways across business, cities and governments with the aim of achieving three key outcomes:

  1. For all countries to include full building decarbonisation targets, concrete policies and measures and related implementation mechanisms in their NDCs.
  2. To have 1,000 cities and at least 20% of the largest built environment businesses by revenue committed to the UN’s Race to Zero.
  3. For the sector’s stakeholders unite behind a single voice and ambition towards shared goals. Namely, that by 2030, 100% of new buildings must be net-zero carbon in operation and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40%; and by 2050, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle.

At IES, we are proud to be supporting these goals and we stand ready with our Intelligent Communities Lifecycle (ICL) Digital Twin technology to help stakeholders efficiently and effectively analyse, plan and implement the solutions and strategies required to take any built environment towards zero-carbon goals.

All too often our sector has been overlooked in the mainstream as a crucial area in which emissions reductions can and must happen. With humans spending an average 90% of our time within buildings, this is an area which affects everyone, but encouragingly, it is also an area where we can all make an impact. We simply need to educate more people on the role that buildings and cities can play in addressing the climate crisis, and highlight the solutions, such as ours, to show how we can get the sector to zero.

According to the research findings of IES’ recently released City of Tomorrow report, 58% of built environment professionals surveyed believe the sector is already doing enough to tackle its carbon impact, despite the built environment contributing 36% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions, and the most recent available data showing that CO2 from operational energy use of buildings reached its highest level yet in 2019.

When asked which aspect of the sector they believe is the place where most sustainability gains can be made, 51% of those surveyed said construction. However, only 22% said operation/energy use, and just 4% said materials development.

In response to the report findings, Don McLean, IES CEO & Founder, comments: “While it’s great that awareness of climate issues in general is now pretty widespread, and 79% of organisations in the built environment sector are actively working towards net zero, it’s clear that more needs to be done to communicate the built environment’s role in carbon emissions to those working in the sector. 

“In particular, we really need to raise awareness of the environmental impact of buildings’ operational energy use, with the available data showing that emissions from building operations are still a huge problem, that efforts up until now have failed to tackle effectively.

“Reducing the emissions created during the construction process is of course essential, however considering that 80% of the buildings that will be around in 2050 are built already, optimising the operational efficiency of those already in existence is just as, if not more important.”

So today, we are calling on you: our customers, partners and peers from across the built environment sector to join us in making a positive environmental impact on every building on the planet. Help us spread the word on the importance of addressing built environment emissions, across their entire lifecycle,  and the solutions that are readily available now to start making real progress in the fight to decarbonise and protect our planet for the future.

Let’s make today count.

While COP26 may be coming to an end, our mission doesn’t end here! Join our experts for more of the latest net-zero buildings updates at next week’s events where we have teamed up with Building for Net-Zero Live 2021 and the Financial Times for Climate Capital Live: Developing Sustainable Future Cities. You can also still visit our COP26 page for on-demand sessions from the IES COP26 programme and to access latest resources you may have missed.