Governments, cities and towns have declared a climate emergency, recognising that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. While the UK has recently toughened up its previous legally-binding 80% reduction in its carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, many ambitious towns and cities want to be carbon-neutral by 2030.
30-40% carbon emissions that are accounted from the built environment are attributable not only to the operational use of built assets, but also through their construction; giving rise to embodied carbon lock-in. As the scale and intensity of urbanisation continues, the development of infrastructure and building construction must strive to ensure systems that are low carbon and resilient, and which protect valuable habitat. A realisation across the built environment professions has been taking place, albeit at a slow pace, in the need to change behaviours and processes to provide for growing populations, without compromising fragile eco-systems. However, a paradigm shift is now necessary within the built environment sector; industry needs to upskill, innovate and re-imagine our cities and infrastructure fit for the future.
An effective mechanism is the consideration of natural capital and ecosystem service valuation, which provides a tool in large-scale economic decision-making. Tools such as ICMS, 2nd Edition, to be published in autumn 2019, approximately assesses the optimum construction cost of design trade-offs and drives more whole life-cycle sustainable infrastructure. While the UK has committed to the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, these need to be fully embedded across built and natural environment policy, particularly across the planning and development process. It is the responsibility of RICS, as a respected global professional body, to pioneer its professionals to deliver a better environment to live and work.