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Drastic industry thinking on climate change demanded after landmark IPCC report

UK Green Building Council argues that major report from the IPCC demanding even stricter global climate change targets highlights the vital role and potential of the construction sector to respond

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has said business leaders, especially those in the construction and building services sector, must make tough, but immediate decisions on transitioning to low and no carbon operations following a critical new report on global warming.

UKGBC chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said that the publication of a special report by the UN-established Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) strongly argued for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and was a “timely wakeup call” for business and government alike.

The European cooling industry has already committed to challenging reforms of greenhouse gas emissions through EU-wide F-Gas legislation, but the findings will likely increase pressure for fresh commitments on energy use and building design when planning key services.

Ms Hirigoyen said that the calls within the findings to limit climate change to under a two degrees Celsius increase to try and limit long-term and irreversible risks to the environment needed to be reviewed in every boardroom across the world.

She said, “The construction and property industry in the UK is an economic juggernaut, and our buildings account for approximately 30 per cent of carbon emissions. It is also the industry with the most cost-effective means of reducing carbon emissions, so it will be a vital catalyst for change in the wider economy.”

“At UKGBC we know that built environment businesses can, and must, lead the charge against climate change. Our Advancing Net Zero programme is a collaborative initiative to drive the transition to a net zero carbon built environment by 2050 – which would be commensurate with the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.”

Next steps for Paris Agreement

The latest IPCC report was approved this month and its conclusions are expected to dominate proceedings at the upcoming Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland.

The conference, which is scheduled for December, will see governments reviewing the current global commitments to tackle climate change via the Paris Agreement.

Key conclusions backed in the findings were that restricting climate change to 1.5 Degrees Celsius would need “rapid and far-reaching” changes around energy use, industry and buildings design, as well as the wider planning of cities and infrastructure.

Realising such am aim would demand that human-caused CO2 emissions would need to fall to 45 per cent of their 2010 recorded levels by 2030. A total ‘net zero’ reduction that would require any remaining emissions to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air would then need to be met by 2050.

Limiting global warming to the preferred temperature mentioned in the report was anticipated to drastically limit sea level rises, while ensuring that the decline of coral reefs would be capped at around 70 to 90 per cent of their population, as opposed to near extinction at around an increase of two degrees.

Jim Skea, co-chair of an IPCC working group that helped compile the report, said, “Limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes.”

Panmao Zhai, a co-chair of a separate working group with the IPCC argued that the report highlight the consequences of adverse patterns already being seen around the world as a result of a one degree increase in temperature, such as more extreme adverse weather and diminishing artic sea ice.

A total of 91 authors from 40 different countries worked on the report, which carries over 6,000 cited references and contains a total of 42,001 expert and government review comments.

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