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COP26: Built Environment

The final day of COP26 was dedicated to Cities, Regions and the Built Environment. A day focused on the built environment was a new addition to the COP agenda and the importance of this new addition was highlighted as such;

“The built environment is responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions. Significant investment will be needed to decarbonise commercial buildings and make real estate assets resilient to the physical impacts of climate change.”

The two core focal points for the day were:

  1. Delivering net zero commercial assets by 2050 and;

  2. Establishing a Whole Life Carbon roadmap for the built environment.

Delivering Net Zero Commercial Assets by 2050

The Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) - a collaboration of the UK’s leading commercial property owners working together to improve the sustainability of existing commercial building stock - hosted the main afternoon event within the Green Zone.

The event presentation highlighted key characteristics of BBP’s Climate Commitments and acknowledge the need for all buildings to be Net Zero by 2050. BBP set out a number of specific action required by signatories, including the need to publish a Net Zero Carbon Pathway along with a delivery plan. This incorporates both direct and indirect emissions, operation and embodied carbon. It is one of the most ambitious commitments that property owners can adopt.

The events Q&A discussions focused on key areas for reaching net zero by 2050, including:

  • Retrofit and refurbishment of buildings, improving energy efficiency and decreasing carbon emissions.

  • The short-term need of insulation and heat pumps and longer-term goals of hydrogen and carbon capture technologies.

  • The direct impact of future innovation and smart buildings alongside the need data transparency and reporting.

  • The vital role of investment in decarbonising the built environment.

Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment

UK Green Building Council launched the Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment in accordance with the Built Environment day at COP26. This roadmap aims to outline a common vision and draw up a set of agreed industry-wide actions for achieving net zero in the construction, operation and demolition of buildings and infrastructure in the UK.

The main elements of the road map consist of; a carbon footprint of the UK built environment, a net zero trajectory to 2050 and policy recommendations to achieve this 2050 target. The outputs are published in an initial series of four reports:

A Pathway to Net Zero for the UK Built Environment – This document offers stakeholders across the UK built environment value chain with an overview of the carbon footprint findings and the implication of the roadmap for the sectors. The overarching aim of the document is by 2050 the sector should generate less than 20 MT of CO2e decreasing from 180 MT in 2018. The Roadmap indicates a sharp decrease in both operational and embodied carbon from present to 2035 and a more gradual decrease between 2035 and 2050.

Technical Report – provides the details of the project structure and the process of data collection, the methodology of the calculations and draws conclusions, describing the net zero scenario definition and results.

Summary for Policy-Makers – this summary is aimed at decision makers within the central government, local authority and additionally those interested in or affected by built environment policy. This document illustrates an overview of the relevant policy recommendations to central government based upon the findings of the report. It is clearly stated within the document that “there can be no further delay in embarking on a national programme of home retrofit”. It is also recommended the all owner occupied homes reach an energy performance certificate (EPC) of ‘C’ or higher by 2028, oil and gas boilers should be banned from sale as of 2030 and that VAT is removed from energy efficiency retrofit and stamp duty rates are tied to energy efficiency.

Historic (1990-2018) Built Environment Emissions (MtCO2e), alongside Projected Emissions from the Built Environment (2018 to 2050)


Influential changes are increasingly being made by significant bodies and stakeholders within the real estate sector. The sector is set to decarbonise rapidly, increasing transitional risks for companies and organisations involved within real estate.

Companies working within the built environment sector must continue to establish and integrate decarbonisation pathways into their strategies in order to maximise opportunities & efficiencies and mitigate future risk & asset stranding.


How Governex can help

Governex is a boutique advisory and implementation business that specialises in ESG performance.

We have extensive experience delivering ESG performance to the real estate sector. Our work to date has included:


  • ESG strategy & programme development for a European Private Equity Fund

  • ESG Investor relation & disclosure for Private Equity Fund

  • ESG strategy & implementation programme for a UK student accommodation investor

Development & Refurbishment

  • ESG advisor to the developer of a large UK city centre mixed use development project

  • ESG advisor to a large UK fund developing next generation office space


  • Corporate Governance for an international architect practice

  • Low carbon and sustainability supply chain solutions for a UK interiors contractor

For further information, please get in touch.


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