It was an action-packed few days for RICS at this year's 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24), held in Katowice, Poland. With the recently published UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) special report, published only weeks before this year's climate summit underlining the urgency for action on climate change, the writing on the wall for COP24 was clearer than ever before.
Transforming the built environment is important in the context of climate change
Buildings consume over one-third of the energy worldwide, in developed markets that figure is even higher. At the same time, about one-third of global carbon emissions can be traced back to buildings. This has a significant impact.
What did RICS bring to the table at COP24?
As a founding member of the UN Environment led Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) brought together at COP21 in Paris, RICS joined industry experts and government representatives to discuss and identify tangible solutions for tackling climate change and achieving the Paris Agreement from a built environment perspective at the 2018 edition of the GlobalABC Building Action Symposium.
While building operational emissions account for 30% of emissions, buildings' embodied carbon accounts for a staggering 70%. Against this background, on behalf of RICS, Simon Sturgis, lead author of the RICS' standard on Whole life carbon assessment, insisted on the importance of getting accurate sector appropriate data around sustainability and adapting to changing climates. Such data would help "embodied carbon emissions" as well as "operational" acquire an overall understanding of a built project's total carbon impact. Yet, consideration of sustainable materials and embodied carbon is necessary to achieve the GHG emissions reduction goals. Therefore, taking a circular economy, whole life carbon approach, helps identify the best combined opportunities for reducing lifetime emissions, and also helps to avoid any unintended consequences of focusing on operational emissions alone.