Accelerating deep collaboration: 26 built environment climate action initiatives announced @ COP26

Marking a climate breakthrough for the built environment, a coalition of business and government groups announce 26 climate action initiatives at Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day at COP26, including:

Responsible for almost 40 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions, the built environment is fast becoming a driving force behind global climate change mitigation efforts.

  • 1049 cities and local governments have joined Race to Zero. Representing 722 million people, this collective action has the potential to reduce global emissions by 1.4 gigatons annually by 2030. C40 Cities has launched a new Clean Construction Action Coalition of cities and construction sector companies today to connect and accelerate the just and fair change we need.

Why cities, regions and the built environment matter

Buildings are responsible for almost 40 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions and 50 per cent of all extracted materials. By 2050, 1.6 billion urban dwellers will be regularly exposed to extremely high temperatures and 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 per cent of the global population is projected to live in urban areas.
  • Global material use is expected to more than double and a third of this rise is attributable to materials used in the building and construction system.

The built environment’s demand on natural resources accelerates climate change, and inefficient, unhealthy buildings negatively impact human health and wellbeing. However, efficient buildings are one of the biggest investment opportunities worth an estimated $24.7 trillion by 2030. Despite this, less than $3 of every $100 spent on new construction goes to efficient buildings.

While around a third of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) make reference to actions on buildings, many of them fall short of the level of ambition to drive the required — and achievable — performance levels. And some countries that expect growth over the coming decades do not have energy codes. This will result in buildings being built today that do not meet the necessary standards for today’s or future climates.

Built environment is vital to halving emissions by 2030

A collaboration between the UN High Level Climate Champions, the COP26 Presidency and the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the #BuildingToCOP26 Coalition, Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day at COP26 brings together national, regional and city level leaders, alongside the private sector, to deliver deep collaboration that can accelerate climate action over the next decade. To mark this dedicated day, 26 game-changing built environment climate initiatives were announced.

The announcements send a clear signal to policymakers and the private sector that the built environment is vital to halving emissions by 2030 and limiting global heating to 1.5℃:

  • The built environment must be prioritised as a critical climate solution

Almost 40 percent of global emissions come from buildings and construction through their lifecycle, and buildings are responsible for almost 35 percent of final energy demand.

  • We need faster and bolder government action, solutions and pathways to help drive change

Cities, regions and private sector frontrunners are already raising ambitions and accelerating progress but to fully realise the sector’s ambitions, they need an enabling regulatory framework and access to financing.

  • We must rapidly accelerate deep cross-sectoral collaboration

This is critical for achieving the needed market transformation towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient built environment at scale and at pace.

How cross-sectoral collaboration is starting to accelerate

The #BuildingToCOP26 Coalition — a group of business and government networks focused on sustainability in the built environment — united around shared climate goals for the built environment system, developed through the UNFCCC Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action Human Settlements and Resilience Pathway, highlighting the built environment as a critical solution provider to the climate crisis:

  • By 2030, the built environment should halve its emissions, whereby 100 percent of new buildings must be net zero carbon in operation, with widespread energy efficiency retrofit of existing assets well underway, and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40percent, with leading projects achieving at least 50 percent reductions in embodied carbon.
  • By 2050, at the latest, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle, including operational and embodied emissions. (UNFCCC Human Settlements Pathway).
  • In parallel to decarbonisation targets, building resilience into the transformation of the built environment is critical to support urban populations and vulnerable communities in the face of future climate impacts. (UNFCCC Resilience Pathway).

The Coalition represents tens of thousands of businesses, governments and civil society organisations across the world and their alliance signals accelerated, deep collaboration across the entire built environment value chain:

  • C40: Representing 700+ million citizens and one-quarter of the global economy, C40 convenes 97 of the world’s greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-hosted Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) represents over 200 members from over 50 countries, including 34 national governments, covering over 62 million km2 and almost 1.5 billion people. GlobalABC and its members work towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector, accelerating built environment climate action commitments that cover over 6 million km2 of area.
  • The Resilience Shift: Partnered with Resilience First, the global business resilience membership network of over 600 organisations, Resilience Shift is the global hub for resilience accelerating an urgent shift to a more resilient future. Resilience Shift includes a community of interest across the globe that reaches over 700 organisations.
  • World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD): Representing a network of companies with a combined revenue of more than USD $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees, WBSCD is a CEO-led organisation accelerating the transition to a sustainable world.
  • World Green Building Council (WorldGBC): Representing over 70 Green Building Councils and their 36,000 members, the WorldGBC network catalyses the uptake of a sustainable built environment for everyone, everywhere and their members have certified 3.5 billion m2 of area.

Eddie Hughes, UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Minister:

“I welcome the work of the Coalition in focusing minds on the important role the global construction sector has to play in reaching net zero.“We are taking action to cut the CO2 emissions of all new build homes by at least 75% from 2025 under the Future Homes Standard, and by 31% through an improvement in building standards later this year.“Net zero provides a real opportunity for communities – delivering new green jobs and skills and boosting local economic growth and we are working closely with local partners to meet our climate change commitments.”

Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Champion for COP26:

“Representing nearly 40% of global energy-related emissions and 50% of extracted materials, decarbonising the built environment can rapidly accelerate climate action. The initiatives and accomplishments highlighted at COP26’s Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day are a launchpad for further climate leadership across the built environment system.”

Gonzalo Muñoz, UN High Level Climate Champion for COP25:

“By 2050, 1.6 billion urban dwellers will be regularly exposed to extremely high temperatures and over 800 million people living in more than 570 cities will be vulnerable to sea-level rise and coastal flooding.“The built environment is a powerful vehicle for climate adaptation and mitigation, and central to the Race to Resilience’s 2030 goal of catalysing action by non-state actors to build the resilience of four billion people from groups and communities who are vulnerable to climate risks.”

Neil Martin, CEO, Lendlease Europe:

“As an industry we’re already designing and building places where millions of people will live and work in 2050 and beyond.  It is critical that these places are truly fit for the future; resilient, adaptable and able to play their full part in radically reducing carbon emissions to build the Net Zero Carbon world we so urgently require.“As Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day has highlighted, this will require an unprecedented level of determination and collaboration right across the value chain – from investors and developers to builders and materials producers – but it can be done, and there is no time to waste.”

Sherman Kwek, CDL Group Chief Executive Officer:

“CDL recognises that decarbonisation is necessary and critical, particularly for the built environment sector which accounts for a significant amount of carbon emissions. As we take affirmative steps to accelerate climate action, we have also expanded our green commitment by including embodied carbon in our net zero goals. We are honoured to have been the sole Singapore recipient of the Terra Carta Seal from HRH The Prince of Wales, as announced at COP26, and this reinforces our climate mitigation and adaptation efforts to build a more sustainable future in Singapore and abroad.”

Diane Hoskins, Co-CEO, Gensler:

“We believe that the pathway to decarbonisation can be significantly accelerated through the built environment. Because buildings significantly contribute to the world’s dependence on GHG, and buildings have decades-long impacts, addressing the built environment has the potential to be a game-changer for global decarbonisation.  I am confident that when all parts of the real estate and building ecosystem — designers, suppliers, constructors, owners, and operators each do their part, we will have a massive carbon reduction in this important sector.”

Together with over 130 built environment events taking place in the build up and across COP26, this collection of announcements represents a rising momentum for greater sustainability and collaboration across the built environment system. Collectively, they signal to policymakers and the private sector that the built environment must be prioritised further as a critical climate solution in order to halve emissions by 2030 and limiting global heating to 1.5℃.

Initiatives announced at Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day

In total, 26 initiatives have been announced that are collectively driving deep collaboration and triggering a positive systemic transformation in the built environment:

Business announcements

Policy announcements

The #BuildingToCOP26 Coalition:

World Green Building Council (WorldGBC)

WorldGBC catalyses the uptake of sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere.

Transforming the building and construction sector across three strategic areas — climate action, health & wellbeing, and resources & circularity — we are a global action network of 70 Green Building Councils around the world.

As members of the UN Global Compact, we work with businesses, organisations and governments to drive the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Through a systems change approach, our network is leading the industry towards a zero emission, healthy, equitable and resilient built environment.

C40 Cities

C40 is a network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities who are working to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone, everywhere can thrive. Mayors of C40 cities are committed to using a science-based and people-focused approach to help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C and build healthy, equitable and resilient communities. Through a Global Green New Deal, mayors are working alongside a broad coalition of representatives from labor, business, the youth climate movement and civil society to go further and faster than ever before. The current Chair of C40 is Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti; and three-term Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board.

Global Alliance for Building and Construction (GlobalABC)

Founded at COP21, hosted by the UN Environment Programme, and with over 200 members among which are 34 countries, GlobalABC is the leading platform for all stakeholders, including countries, cities, private sector, research, and NGOs to jointly work towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector. GlobalABC tracks the sector’s annual global climate action progress, engages in global advocacy, and in policy transformation by supporting countries based on their situation and through regional and national roadmaps.

The Resilience Shift

The Resilience Shift is a global hub for resilience best practice. We inform and promote greater resilience through influencing policy, shaping practice and sharing learning, and by creating a movement to bridge the infrastructure systems gap, to create a safe, resilient and sustainable future for all, in a world that is full of disruptive forces.

Together with our strategic partnership with Resilience First, the global business resilience network, we have a global resilience-focused network of members, partners and collaborators. We are a founding partner of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure, and a managing partner of the COP Resilience Hub at this year’s COP26 and beyond. Follow us on Twitter and Linkedin.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)

WBCSD is the premier global, CEO-led community of over 200 of the world’s leading sustainable businesses working collectively to accelerate the system transformations needed for a net zero, nature positive, and more equitable future.

We do this by engaging executives and sustainability leaders from business and elsewhere to share practical insights on the obstacles and opportunities we currently face in tackling the integrated climate, nature and inequality sustainability challenge; by co-developing “how-to” CEO-guides from these insights; by providing science-based target guidance including standards and protocols; and by developing tools and platforms to help leading businesses in sustainability drive integrated actions to tackle climate, nature and inequality challenges across sectors and geographical regions.

Our member companies come from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than USD $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. Our global network of almost 70 national business councils gives our members unparalleled reach across the globe. Since 1995, WBCSD has been uniquely positioned to work with member companies along and across value chains to deliver impactful business solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.

Together, we are the leading voice of business for sustainability, united by our vision of a world where 9+ billion people are living well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century.

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For further information contact:

Harvey Jones, Head of Marketing and Communications, WorldGBC.

+44 (0) 747 281 5818