An overwhelming majority felt that climate action is just as important, if not more so, to their business now than before the outbreak. Sustainability matters because the world is on a trajectory to destruction. Action is required now to stop temperatures rising.
What does this mean for real estate?
Louise Ellison, Group Head of Sustainability at Hammerson, believes real estate assets underpin the economy and should be made fit for the future.
Why? Because the climate crisis and its related risks haven't gone away. The question needs to be how we use this crisis to slow planetary warming. Limiting warming to 1.5°C, rather than 2.0°C would significantly lessen impacts for many millions of people. It would also reduce the costs of future mitigation and adaptation efforts.
We recognise the increasing demand for carbon sequestration in the countryside. If humans and nature are to thrive, there is a need to invest in nature-based solutions to tackle the climate and ecological crisis in our cities.
Biodiversity should be embraced. Why? Because there is a biodiversity crisis in the built environment. In the UK, an Environment Bill is on hold because of Covid-19. The legislation would require developers to deliver a 10% net gain of diversity on their schemes. On site biodiversity brings economic, social and health benefits to the environment. The aftershocks of Coronavirus should accelerate the industry's green agenda. I propose:
- The prioritisation of nature-based solutions and a landscape-led approach (green and blue infrastructure) in development – meaning the landscape drives the layout of the buildings.
- The development of a biodiversity action plan.
- The nurturing of public realm areas where patches of wildflowers and weeds help to sustain insect life.
- The creation of more bio-corridors, including Sustainable Urban Drainage Schemes.
- The incorporation of more greening into our workplace, through plants, food growth and bird song.
We need nature and yet every day we threaten its very existence with our actions.
Real estate needs to listen more to communities and people. They should be treated as the customer. This way, developers can build better. Community engagement must not be a PR exercise. Currently stalled schemes should be revisited and opportunities for environmental performance and sustainability gains identified.
Only by taking the time to learn from the Covid-19 crisis can we move past it. Climate change, sustainability and economic recovery are inextricably linked.