In the month that Glasgow was supposed to host the UNFCCC COP 26, the Green Horizon Summit brought together leaders from the public and private sectors to explore the pivotal role of green finance in supporting a green recovery and an economy-wide transition to net zero. The keynote address by Mark Carney, former Governor of the Bank of England, delivered an inspiring message:
“Progress has been considerable and momentum is growing. It is within our grasp to create a virtuous cycle of innovation and investment for the net zero world that people are demanding and that future generations deserve. Let’s seize it.”.
London Climate Action Week (LCAW) proved that the capital’s individuals and organisations are indeed gearing up to seize this opportunity, showcasing the projects and initiatives that are mobilising climate action across London. Over 200 events highlighted the work being done by leading climate experts, politicians, and businesses, covering four major themes: (i) Green, Fair and Resilient Recovery; (ii) Roadmap to COP26; (iii) Sustainable, Net Zero London; and (iv) Whole of Society Mobilisation.
A key message from LCAW 2020 was the need to improve the energy efficiency of our buildings and replace fossil fuel-powered heating, in order to have any hope of meeting our legally-binding climate targets. Energy efficiency is widely recognised as a cornerstone of national energy policy and one of the most cost-effective ways to deliver the net-zero transition – a transition that is far more efficient if we undertake it together, rather than individually.
Our highlights on the built environment at LCAW 2020:
Retrofitting London’s Homes
The panel discussed new and innovative financial mechanisms that are being developed and deployed to address the retrofit challenge. This included a showcase of the Coalition for the Energy Efficiency of Buildings (CEEB), as speakers delved into some of its specific demonstrator projects such as Building Renovation Passports and Community Municipal Investments (CMIs).
One of the speakers pointed out that Covid has shaken up our assumptions of the future and has proven that behavioural change is indeed possible. In this period of turmoil and uncertainty we need to ride the wave of good intentions and use our combined will for change to shape the future.
The Cityscape and the Climate Emergency
In this event, the panellists discussed the challenges, barriers, and opportunities for climate change adaptation in our buildings, the behaviours of their residents, and the spaces between them. It became clear that we need to take a holistic view of climate action, taking into account a broader range of positives, including the social benefits of green buildings, their contribution to good mental health, and our desire for a just transition.
Good Homes: A Net Zero Recovery
This panel session discussed the green recovery and how Covid has changed how people interact and feel about their homes and neighbourhoods. Whether we like it or not, we are spending more time indoors, and this is an opportunity for us to develop a new generation of energy-efficient housing that also delivers a healthy indoor climate. Green initiatives and health often go hand-in-hand, and active housing design often promotes healthier, more comfortable living conditions for occupants, ensuring a generous supply of daylight and fresh air. Health is at the forefront of people’s minds at the moment and we should market energy efficiency measures within a health envelope.
Heat Decarbonisation: Anglo-Dutch perspectives
The pandemic has impacted people’s thinking and has facilitated international discussion and collaboration. Video conferencing, in particular, has encouraged us to broaden our horizons and to connect on a more regular basis with our international counterparts, sharing knowledge, ideas, and best practices. It has, for example, allowed us to compare how different countries and cities have sought to overcome market barriers and address financing gaps to reach their net zero carbon goals.
The panel discussed, in particular, how the Netherlands and the UK face many similar challenges when it comes to decarbonising heat, with both countries having a similar heat makeup in terms of connectivity to the gas grid. The Netherlands has approached this challenge by mandating a long-term phase-out of gas target, which helped heat pump demand to grow by 50%. Similar measures in the UK could help to achieve the 600,000 heat pump installation target as set out in the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan, which recently signalled a step change in heat pump ambitions. The panellists collectively stressed that we must continue to work synergistically to tackle investment barriers, and provide certainty of demand and cashflows to de-risk the sector and make pricing cheaper for consumers and businesses alike. Watch the full recording here.
As we emerge from this pandemic and have the opportunity to reflect, every individual and business will have an opportunity to pivot as we enter the ‘Decade of Action’. We need to innovate, collaborate, and push the boundaries. A whole economy transition represents the greatest commercial opportunity of our time; let’s seize it.