NEWS Insight

COP 26: State of Play

For the past few weeks, the eyes of the world have been on Glasgow for COP26 – the 26th UN Climate Change Conference.

Cumulating in the new Glasgow Climate Pact, confirmed after negotiations overran the 12-day deadline, the conference is attended by 130 countries across the globe and aims to bring a collaborative solution to the existential problems brought about by climate change and global warming.

We asked our sustainability and construction experts, from across the business, to share their thought on the successes – and failures – of a crucial moment in the history of our planet.

Anna Tsoumi, Principal Sustainability Consultant

What do you see as the greatest environmental challenges affecting construction today?

Reducing embodied and operational carbon emissions on construction sites and buildings, and the maintenance or increase of ecological value on sites.

What did you want to see from COP26?

Support for local products and a trajectory of minimising mass production in food, in fashion, furnishing and even in construction.

Which COP26 initiative do you feel has the greatest potential to protect the future of the planet?

Incentivising people. Citizens from every region should be able to have the basic knowledge and education in order to assist on climate change mitigation. Collective work is required.

What has COP26 failed to address?

This past summer, and in previous years, most Mediterranean countries suffered from massive fires – this should really be one of the main topics highlighted in the fight against climate change. An analysis of the impact of those fires should have been made in order to realise the importance of protecting existing natural areas.

Looking on macro scale, how can less developed countries – which are often fighting economic issues – find a way to progress, develop and evolve in a sustainable way?

What do you see as the greatest environmental challenges affecting construction today?

Material selection, responsible sourcing and reducing embodied carbon.

What did you want to see from COP26?

More progress – some progress has been made, but not enough. on the last day of the conference the reality was that China mined a record amount of coal in a single day. That coal will produce CO2 which is the equivalent of Ireland’s annual emissions!

What has COP26 failed to address?

I’m left feeling that the reductions are for today only and don’t account for future growth in global population and the exponential growth of new real estate.

Any other thoughts or conclusions around your discipline following COP26?

We need more hard-hitting government policy to act, and that is slow in coming. Hopefully we will see a sea change soon.

Marie-Louise Schembri, Design Director

What do you see as the greatest environmental challenges affecting construction today?

The economy is not as geared up as it should be towards accelerating decarbonisation. Low and zero carbon options are still largely unsubsidised; and where funds are available, they are complex and bureaucratic. Advice is scarce and knowledge among decisions makers is poor.

What did you want to see from COP26?

I was hoping to see more unison and less nationalism from heads of countries, aimed at saving a global future. The future of our planet is in jeopardy thanks to the distorted priorities of a group of men who will not live long enough to experience the tragic human and environmental outcomes they are failing to prevent.

Which COP26 initiative do you feel has the greatest potential to protect the future of the planet?

It is definitely a combination, not one initiative. The phase out of fossil fuels (not just coal), reduction of methane emissions, the rapid removal and storage of carbon from the atmosphere, as well as expanding and protecting natural dry and wet habitats to slow down biodiversity decline.

What has COP26 failed to address?

It failed to deliver an outcome that elevates the urgency of action required. It’s a positive step in the right direction, but it’s too little, too late. We have been let down by governments across the world.

Any other thoughts or conclusions around your discipline following COP26?

Private investors, asset holders and developers need to understand the key role they now play to step in where governments have failed to do so. We need to support our clients by providing guidance and transparency on how they can accelerate net positive impact.

Chris Birch, Director - Infrastructure and Environment

What do you see as the greatest environmental challenges affecting construction today?

Consistency of message at international and national level. Clients and the public alike are bombarded by contradictory messages and U-turns in policy are commonplace.

What did you want to see from COP26?

Long term concrete global targets regarding the phase out of fossil fuels.

Which COP26 initiative do you feel has the greatest potential to protect the future of the planet?

The agreement to “phase down” coal rather than “phase out” is a step forward but has too many get out clauses. The agreement to end unsustainable deforestation and promote biodiversity is probably the key agreement with potential for me

Any other thoughts or conclusions around your discipline following COP26?

We need to help the countries that our historical economic growth has put in jeopardy. The pact urges countries to deliver US$100 billion per year for five years to developing countries vulnerable to climate damage. This is a major breakthrough.

Tom Hall, Associate Sustainability Consultant

What do you see as the greatest environmental challenges affecting biodiversity and habitats today?

Deforestation has a significant and direct impact on global biodiversity, sterilising large areas of land and leading to declining indigenous animals as their habitat disappears. However, the impact of climate change and the warming of our world will have a similar, but more gradual, impact.

What did you want to see from COP26?

Leadership in tackling the environmental crisis we face and a commitment to delivering meaningful change.

Which COP26 initiative do you feel has the greatest potential to protect the future of the planet?

The declaration to work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 provides benefits at a number of levels. This will ensure the protection and enhancement of habitats that are important for carbon sequestration, alongside reducing pressures on native animals and affording them an opportunity to adapt to the already warming climate within their natural habitat range.

What has COP26 failed to address?

Overall, COP has failed to address the rising unease at the pace in which action is being taken to reduce the impact we are having on our climate and our world.

Any other thoughts or conclusions around your discipline following COP26?

Whilst the initiatives are an important step in the right direction, it is what comes next that is most important. The deforestation initiative is an important example – such declarations can be fragile. A similar initiative was signed by 40 countries in 2014 at the UN Climate Summit, endorsed by governments of 8 of the countries identified in the WWF Deforestation Fronts publication. Whilst some show a decreased in deforestation since 2014, some of these countries have been reported to see increases thereby reinforcing the importance of the next steps beyond the initial agreement.

Tom Reade, Associate Sustainability Consultant

What do you see as the greatest environmental challenges affecting your discipline today?

In relation to air pollution, it’s the transition to fossil fuel free modes of transport and provision of heating and hot water. The transition is slow and inhibited by high costs (for Electric Vehicles and Heat Pumps for the general public) and lack of significant investment in transitioning from fossil fuel led public transport to electrified alternatives.

What did you want to see from COP26?

A clear commitment to providing a green investment fund to support the global economy transition away from fossil fuels. I also wanted to see a clear commitment to working towards no coal fired power stations and a reduction in gas reliance – this was watered down at the last minute!

Which COP26 initiative do you feel has the greatest potential to protect the future of the planet?

The commitment to reducing deforestation by 2030 and focusing on the transition towards zero emission transport including consideration of aviation and shipping as demand for these will continue to rise.

What has COP26 failed to address?

Population growth is a key factor across the board. With the global population continuing to rise the demand for energy, vehicles, aviation and raw materials is also likely to continue on an upward trajectory. Therefore, as an example by not phasing out of coal fired power stations or accelerating the transition to zero emission travel through extensive financial commitments meeting the 1.5 degree target whilst balancing population growth is going to be a significant challenge.

Any other thoughts or conclusions around your discipline following COP26?

Given that air pollution affects everybody globally, there needs to be a significant push to improve local air quality through the transitioning to fossil fuel free alternative sources of travel and energy. In addition, improve education across all demographics to enable individuals to make more informed choices when it comes to travel, energy, food etc.

Hilson Moran @HilsonMoran

This site uses cookies to ensure the best user experience. Read More

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close