For those of us interested in sustainability, and indeed anyone following the news, it will have been impossible to avoid hearing about COP26: the United Nations conference that’s gathered world leaders together to agree on how to tackle the climate crisis.
There have been some positive steps arising from the conference, including agreements on deforestation, climate finance and more, and I want to take this opportunity to share some immediate thoughts about the role of the built environment, a key piece of the sustainability puzzle, and implications for Sirius and the business community.
The role of the built environment
The built environment and construction sector – that’s the buildings, spaces and infrastructure where we conduct our lives and daily activities – accounts for 39% of global carbon emissions, according to some estimates. That’s a huge proportion and highlights the scale of the challenge, but also the scale of the impact that the sector can have on climate if the right steps are taken and the responsibility we have at Sirius to make a difference
As we’ve seen on Built Environment Day at COP, technological solutions to reduce energy and water use and efficiently manage waste are one part of the solution and something we’ve made strides on at Sirius across our portfolio. We are committed to reducing our emissions, water and waste across the business. But it is also important that we give proper thought to the use of buildings. We must all make sure that the buildings we all use or depend on are fit for purpose and being put to the right use, in the right places. This is something we always consider for our portfolio to encourage business to reduce travel, for example in supply chains or commutes, and ensure that our spaces are used efficiently and flexibly, with as little going to waste as is practical. We have been increasing our use of storage space for our clients as an example.
Finally, there’s the question of ‘embodied carbon’. 11% of carbon emissions related to buildings derive from the materials and energy used to construct them – so no matter how modern and efficient, constructing a new space is always going to be carbon intensive. It’s part of the reason at Sirius we focus on repurposing existing spaces for our tenants, so as to make best use of what’s already in existence and to minimise new construction whilst at the same time making sure our annual carbon emissions can be as reduced as much possible over time.
Call to action
COP26 has represented great progress in some areas, but there’s so much more to be done. Scientists at the Climate Action Tracker last week shared new research finding that the world is on course to far surpass the level of emissions needed to remain within 1.5C as set out in the Paris Agreement.
Leadership ultimately comes from global governments, but we in business and as individuals all have a massive role to play – and we at Sirius are committed to doing our part.