- 36.8 Gigatonnes: Forecast emissions from fossil fuels and industry, 2017
- 2%: Emissions up from 2016
- 2017: the third warmest year on record
Two years on from the historic COP21 deal on climate change, global carbon emissions are higher than ever. What is going to force architects into action?
195 countries signed a breakthrough commitment at The United Nations (UN) COP21 Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015 to keep global temperature rise to below 2°C this century. Also, they further aspired to limit it to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Now we need a revolution in the structure of the building industry to achieve this!
Science tells us that it is the level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere that is unquestionably the cause of climate change. Our carbon-dependent society has been causing these problems for years.
The building and construction sector is in a unique position of influence with control of 53% of the total UK carbon-based emissions.
Real effort and innovation are a solution for reducing carbon emissions.
In January the UN indicated that 2017 and 2016 were the second and third hottest years on record. Worse, global carbon emissions rose again in 2017 after three years of little to no growth.
Last year, we saw more evidence of the likely consequences of climate change.
In fact, there were more intense rainfall, higher sea levels and warmer ocean conditions favouring more powerful storms, amplifying the impacts of hurricanes and cyclones. This is a window into the future. We need to reach a peak in global emissions in the next few years and reducing carbon emissions rapidly afterwards to address climate change and limit its impacts.
Latest figures put the annual bill for repairs and recovery following climate-related events at £222bn in the United States alone.
With new infrastructure being added to the global asset base at an ever-increasing rate, losses will escalate rapidly because of increasingly severe climate impacts.
Climate perils impacting urban centres have been shaking our industry. 2017 is on track to become one of the most expensive years on record.
As a result, we are seeing companies with trillions of dollars of assets in their portfolio asking those they’ve invested in:
‘is our money safe with you in the face of climate change?’
Mark Caney’s warning was a high profile. It spelt out the potential scale and severity of climate-related risks to global financial markets.
The response is clear – investors are planning their first disclosure of risks within the next couple of years. We can expect a widespread adoption within the next five. When this happens, consistent and comparable disclosures will inform decision-making and lead to the pricing of climate risks. This, in turn, will lead to more allocation of capital towards low carbon and climate resilient investments.
We can expect to see companies whose investments are not consistent with a 2°C pathway withhold or withdrawn capital both in terms of emissions and resilience.
BREEAM is the world’s leading sustainability assessment method for master planning projects, infrastructure and buildings. It recognises and reflects the value in higher performing assets across the built environment lifecycle, from new construction to in-use and refurbishment.
The major investment decisions made today will be with us for tens of years to come.
Infrastructure and the construction industry have a two-fold responsibility:
- to minimise carbon so that whole life emissions are as low as they can possibly be;
- and to make the infrastructure more resilient, to protect against – or at least enable adaptation to cope with – the chronic and acute climate change impacts of temperature rise, flooding, storms or drought over the decades ahead.
The UK’s has a phenomenal reputation in the built environment for skills both in design, architecture, engineering and project management.
Therefore, the construction professional bodies fundamentally need a leadership to embed this revolutionary change into how we design, implement and create our built environment within the next 10-20 years.
Architecture firms need to strive to show low carbon leadership. However, there is a serious lack of knowledge in the profession regarding the science of energy transfer and how to design passively, actively and in terms of energy production.
This is where Low Energy Design specialists have an edge, along with SpaceShapers.
SpaceShapers services enable buildings with reduced and zero-carbon: contact us for more information.