Climate change is a global problem but are there practical, small things that can be done at a local level to make a difference? This was the question posed to an expert panel at BNP Paribas Real Estate UK’s 'Shaping A Better World From the Ground Up' webinar.
A lot has changed in recent years that has put climate change firmly on the agenda. Everything from legislation and financial incentives to reduce carbon to increasing occupier and investor interest in green buildings and investments has highlighted the work necessary to reach net-zero.
There are many challenges. For example, tax incentives make building new sustainable buildings attractive, but similar incentives aren’t applied to retrofit work on existing stock to make it greener. Then there is the depleted natural environment, which plays an important role in climate mitigation.
Just the fact that we need to plant far more trees to sequester carbon is a challenge. Edward Daniels, Head of Forestry, John Clegg & Co, said: “The UK is 13% forested and Austria and Germany are over 30%.
“We’ve got a plan in place to increase our forests to 18-19%, and that requires 30,000 hectares of new planting a year for the foreseeable future.”
Land use will have to change to accommodate new trees, and the public will need to accept the changing look of the environment around them. Existing natural landscapes need to be maintained, and biodiversity increased and not just in rural areas.
While climate change needs national leadership and governance, there are local solutions.
Small projects can inspire others and build momentum; collectively, they make a difference. Small projects can also help build a knowledge base and bank of data for future projects.
More developers are looking to develop green buildings to achieve their carbon reduction targets, meet regulations and satisfy demand from occupiers and investors. Buildings with excellent sustainability credentials increasingly have a premium attached, and more developers are looking at ways of making new developments greener.
For example, Native Land is developing the first fossil-fuel-free, mixed-use estate in London. Aside from running on green energy, the buildings have features such as solar optimised facades and windows to reduce heat gain inside.
The space between buildings can provide opportunities for urban greening and increasing biodiversity. This can also help with minimising flood risk if carefully planned.
Outside urban areas, tree-planting to mitigate climate change has received a boost with Government support for landowners and farmers who want to create new woods.
The carbon capture potential of woodland is also attracting investor interest. Daniels said: “The carbon income is a small market at the moment, although it's not particularly well understood. But as investors move into it and get a better understanding, it will grow, become more mainstream and less risky. And this will result in yield compression.”
Like all areas of climate change mitigation, the level of knowledge, expertise, technology and data is growing, which will be key to meeting net-zero targets and activity at a local level has an important role to play in this.
To view a recording of the 'Global Problem, Local Solution' panel session, click here.
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