Climate change is high on the news agenda – at last – and governments and companies are announcing new carbon commitments on a daily basis. So why is COP26 important and what exactly is it?
COP26 is shorthand for the United Nations Conference of Parties on climate change. It brings together representatives from 197 countries to debate how best to minimise human impacts on our planet’s fragile climate. In 2015, COP resulted in the Paris Agreement, which saw countries promise to keep global warming below 2°C by reducing human-caused carbon emissions. Six years later, COP26 in Glasgow will see how they are delivering on that promise.
Why’s that important for you, for me and for Lendlease? Well - as the world builds back from the pandemic, it would be easy for us all to slip back to ‘business-as-usual’. But doing so would be disastrous for the health of our planet and future generations. COP26 provides the critical opportunity for international public, private and third sector collaboration that will set the direction of travel on climate action over the next decade and beyond.
The built environment is responsible for almost 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s very clear why COP26 is important for us. Businesses in our sector have not just a huge responsibility, but also a huge opportunity, to help limit global warming.
At Lendlease, we’ve committed to being a 1.5°C aligned company, Net Zero Carbon by 2025 and Absolute Zero Carbon, with no excuses and no offsets, by 2040. Over the past year we’ve made some good progress towards those aims. We’ve switched to 100 per cent renewable electricity across our business in Europe and we’re phasing out the use of liquid fossil fuels including diesel on our construction sites.
However, over 90% of our carbon footprint is made up of so-called Scope 3 emissions, mostly from the embodied carbon in the materials that go into our buildings. Whilst we’ve begun to make important inroads into tackling these more challenging emissions, we know we cannot eliminate them on our own – and that’s why events like COP are so important. Bringing the key players from public, private and third sectors together provides an invaluable opportunity for everyone to share their learnings. Climate change is not an individual problem – it is a global problem – and one that no organisation can solve on its own.
At Lendlease we’ll need our entire supply chain – materials producers, designers, subcontractors - and our investors, customers and even our competitors – to come with us if we are to reach Absolute Zero Carbon, and to create the kinds of homes, offices and places that people want and need: ones that are healthier, better connected to nature and more resilient in the face of future challenges.
That’s why it’s so important that COP26 provides an opportunity for the built environment sector to meet environmental challenges with solutions. And we hope that the public and private sector can agree on steps to decarbonise our industry through new policies, legislation and incentives. We believe the stretching targets we’ve set ourselves at Lendlease will help drive innovation – and we hope COP26 can do the same for the whole sector.
Members of our team will be participating in a wide range of events throughout COP26. But something we’re particularly proud of is the inclusion of the Milano Innovation District (MIND) within the Build Better Now Virtual Pavilion. Setting a new standard for sustainable urban regeneration, MIND is one of just 17 international projects to be showcased within an immersive virtual reality experience that offers solutions to the climate crisis within the built environment’s reach.
Our presence at COP26 will be physical as well as virtual and several senior members of our business, including our European CEO, Neil Martin, have been invited to share our experience in this area across several major conference sessions.
We’re all looking forward to playing our part in COP26, but most importantly, we are ready to build on the momentum it creates and to collaborate with partners across the industry to drive tangible climate action after the conference is over. The climate crisis requires all of us to take urgent and radical action to cut carbon emissions. I hope and believe that COP26 can provide the springboard that we so urgently need to take our collective efforts to another level. This is our last best chance, and we must grasp it.