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COP21: RICS central to mobilising professionals to reduce the impact of buildings on the climate

RICS joined governments, building, construction organisations and funding agencies to launch the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. The Alliance is a worldwide building sector network backed by the governments of France, Germany, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Cameroon and Senegal amongst others. It was launched at the first ever United Nations (UN) Buildings Day held during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21), where governments were negotiating a new agreement to mitigate climate change. The Alliance is a joint initiative between the French Government as host of COP21 and the UN’s Environment Programme.

RICS has joined the alliance as initiating partner in our capacity as a global professional body. In particular, RICS professionals can play a central role in mobilising capital for investment in energy efficient and sustainable buildings.

Here are a few key points on how the RICS, as a global body with an extensive network of professionals is relevant to the Alliance’s aims.

The buildings and construction sector is at the centre of economic growth globally. However, the sector is one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide, a major cause of global warming. RICS has committed to work with its professionals to drive down emissions throughout the property lifecycle.

The commitments made by governments at COP21 require consistent instruments to monitor and measure progress. RICS promotes international standards that measure buildings and construction materials consistently, and that underpin global climate goals. These standards are implemented and regulated by RICS professionals the world over.

RICS, through initiatives such as the RICS School for the Built Environment in India, is addressing the skills gap and is building capacity for professionals on areas such as sustainability, energy efficiency, building resilience among other things. This is particularly important in the light of Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s comments at COP21 that the lack of skills is a key barrier to development in emerging economies.

Buildings are some of the biggest emitters of CO2 accounting for one-third of global greenhouse gasses. Commercial and residential buildings also account for 40 percent of the world’s energy consumption. RICS is working with its members in the land, real estate and construction sectors to find solutions across the property lifecycle to support more sustainable business practices.

“The property sector has a huge influence on the global financial system. We want to leverage this influence to support the efforts of governments as they negotiate a new climate deal in Paris. RICS is a natural partner for the United Nations. We have worked with the UN before on creating a framework for businesses to act more responsibly in relation to their real estate assets. And we want to build on that relationship by supporting governments as they make adaption and mitigation commitments to curb the effects of climate change,” commented Sean Tompkins, RICS Chief Executive Officer.

Governments negotiating at COP21 were under pressure to produce an international climate agreement that would balance environmental ambitions with the global economic realities. RICS, with its global network of professionals in more than 140 countries and with the international professional standards it is developing with other organisations, wants to give governments the ‘Confidence to Commit’. RICS wants governments to be confident in the knowledge that the progress made towards their commitments to reduce CO2 emissions can be measured through the tools and expertise the organisation provides around the world.

“COP21 is all about commitments for governments as they finalised a climate deal. We want to support these efforts by making our own commitment to influence our members, their clients and the wider built environment sector. The commitments we make will have an impact well beyond COP21 and they must be central to our sector’s response to the challenges posed by climate change,” concluded Sean Tompkins.

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