Chatham House Associate Fellow and chartered member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Karim Elgendy explores the role of buildings in the race to net zero cities.
Race to Zero Built Environment System Map launches
We each have a role to play, individually and together, to make the necessary transition to a net zero built environment. The Race to Zero Built Environment System Map is a digital platform that enables radical collaboration for system change. It is an interactive space for policymakers, businesses, investors, innovators and citizens alike to explore and visualize their individual and collective roles in the transition to a net zero built environment. This pioneering digital platform was co-created by the UN High-level Climate Action Champions and a cohort of built environment experts, funded by a Laudes Foundation grant and developed by Nexial.
From raw material extraction to building deconstruction – buildings and construction account for 38 per cent of global carbon emissions. To reach global reduction targets, this has to change. The map provides different views of the built environment value chain, and was designed to stimulate more insightful conversations about where and how the system needs to change. The built environment system is complex and dynamic with multiple stakeholders – fragmented yet interdependent. A common understanding of the value chain can enable each of us to find value and opportunity in taking action. Towards this, we take an important step.
Creating system change
To create change, we need coherent and strong action from all areas of the built environment system – and we need this now. By 2030, the global new construction market is estimated to grow by USD $8 trillion. This figure does not include important renovation of the current building stock. Imagine the possibilities.
Using the Race to Zero Built Environment System Map, we can stir up ambition and commitment across both public and private sectors. Together, we can uncover valuable connections between activities in the system and beyond.
There are many initiatives already creating momentum. Voluntary standards and standardized reporting are making it easier to understand and advance the opportunities inherent in a net zero transition. Groups are engaging in purposeful design and construction, cities all over the world are developing strategies and taking steps to reduce carbon through decarbonization initiatives. Actors and entities within the financial sector are positioning themselves and making investments in sustainable construction and clean energy more feasible. Businesses are both innovating and re-inventing, prioritizing circular concepts and providing leading examples of sustainable energy transformation.
Using the Race to Zero Built Environment System Map, we can learn from others and demonstrate our own work and commitment to enable and encourage coordinated action. We can create best practices and support for policies that drive change. We can connect investors to net zero ventures that deliver multiple wins. We can scale up current initiatives for future synchronous work. Together, we can be energized to engage, curious to learn and eager to connect.
A Collaborative Map for Change
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development identifies collaboration as crucial to reaching net zero emissions across all activities in the building and construction system and to achieve global alignment with carbon reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement. The Race to Zero Built Environment System Map is key to this collaboration.
Visual narratives are an effective way to build trust and form deep engagement. The map delves into the particularly important roles of Government & Policy, and of Finance & Ownership, covered in two animated stories on the platform. Government actors will feel inspired to influence and drive system change through its different roles. Financial actors will feel empowered to use the flow of money to influence and control decisions affecting net zero in the built environment value chain.
We all take part in the built environment – it shapes us – our communities, our work and our connection with nature. From natural resource input to emissions output, the map highlights how the decisions made upstream impact ecosystem services and push the limits of planetary boundaries. By working more coherently – and with better system insight – we can increase our understanding of what creates and influences barriers, and explore the different levers that can stretch commitments and accelerate change.
Today we launch the Race to Zero Built Environment System Map for you, for us, for system transformation. We invite you to open up the map, find yourself, your contribution and visualize its reach into the built environment value chain.
We need to build our way out of the social and financial crisis provoked by COVID-19, without losing sight of our net-zero targets.