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What progress is the property sector making against our carbon emissions targets?


New Year usually seems like a good time to take a look at progress and make a plan for the year ahead. So the Green Construction Board’s (GCB) publication of an updated Low Carbon Routemap for the Built Environment in December was both useful and timely.  However, it makes for gloomy reading.

The GCB published the original Routemap in December 2012.  It plots progress in reducing carbon emissions from 1990 to 2009 and sets out a potential trajectory for achieving the Construction 2025 sector target of 50% carbon emissions reduction by 2025. Applying data for subsequent years to the original Routemap model shows how the sector is progressing against these original projections. And it is not doing terribly well.  In fact we seem to be going backwards.

The 2012 report showed a 17% reduction in emissions for the sector between 1990 and 2009.  The latest data shows an 11% reduction between 1990 and 2012. So the gap between where the sector is now and the 50% sector target for 2025 has actually widened.

Of course the figures are absolute, not intensity figures and economic output has expanded, so one might expect an increase in emissions to some degree.  But economic growth between 2009 and 2012 wasn’t exactly stellar, ‘peaking’ at 2% in 2011 according to ONS data.

What is perhaps even more frustrating is that there is major work going on within the sector to reduce emissions.  For example the companies participating in the Better Building Partnership Real Estate Environment Benchmark reduced their carbon emissions by 27% between 2008 and 2013.  These companies, Hammerson included, will be setting targets to continue with a similar trajectory but the figures from the GCB report suggest that these businesses are not typical for the sector.

The built environment sector as a whole would appear to be failing so far to decouple economic growth from carbon emissions. We need a significant increase in the breadth of participation in carbon reduction programmes to have any real hope of getting back on track.

The report can be downloaded from the GCB website here: http://www.greenconstructionboard.org/

The BBP REEB Benchmark and reports can be accessed from the BBP website here: http://www.betterbuildingspartnership.co.uk/