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14 DEZ 2018

Pushing for practical climate solutions at COP24

Ursula Hartenberger RICS

Ursula Hartenberger

Global Head of Sustainability

Brussels, Belgium

RICS

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.

Engaging the next generation, buildings and their role in mitigating climate change were also centre stage in a discussion that RICS had with a delegation of school children, teachers and city representatives from Ukraine who had travelled to Katowice to raise awareness for their "Climate Drops" App which rewards children of participating schools with so-called "drops" for climate-friendly activities which can be redeemed with local partners.

What are the core messages of the GlobalABC Global Status Report?

This year's GlobalABC Global Status Report, 'Towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector', which RICS has contributed to shows that while progress has been made with 136 country-level Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) now explicitly mentioning the buildings sector, NDCs still fall short of tapping into the 4.9 GtCO2 of potential annual emissions abatement that could be achieved if countries were to pursue strategic low-carbon and energy-efficient buildings technology deployment. In other words, there remains a lot of work that needs to be done to meet emission reduction targets.

What can RICS professionals do?

Climate change is a highly complex issue and requires multi-stakeholder action and knowledge sharing. The biggest challenge for the real estate and construction sector remains its fragmen¬tation coupled with a lack of circular thinking. RICS professionals work at key touch points of the sectoral life cycle and as such are ideally placed to address existing barriers through exchanges with peers and value chain participants as well as through raising awareness amongst their clients about the risks of not acting on climate issues now.

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Ursula Hartenberger RICS

Ursula Hartenberger

Global Head of Sustainability

Brussels, Belgium

RICS

Ursula joined RICS in 2006 as Head of Public Affairs Europe at the organisation’s Brussels office. From 2006 until August 2009 she was leading on the organisation’s energy efficiency in buildings campaign. In this context, she was member of various working groups advising the European Commission on practical aspects of the Energy Performance in Buildings Directive and also managed RICS’ contribution to the EU Sustainable Energy campaign as well as organising a number of high-profile events.

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