Global Environment Conference Calls for Fast and Radical Action

THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR, the real estate industry and city planners must give high priority to the same goal – to drastically reduce their climate impacts.

Powerful, combined efforts are crucial to have a chance at achieving the UN’s sustainability goals. And what’s more – everything has to happen very quickly.

These are the cornerstones to the roadmap presented at the Beyond 2020 World Conference, which took place online 2-4 November.

Urgency

A sense of urgency pervaded the conference, not least with regard to the construction industry as, it was pointed out, buildings and construction account for 40 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

If we continue as before, we have no chance of even getting close to the climate goals. Now we need to act with new radical thinking and we need to do it fast, and increase the pace at which we work to reduce cities’ climate impact. We must look for innovative ways to build our societies so that we move towards the sustainability goals, and not away from them”, says Colin Fudge, Visiting Professor of urban futures and design at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

Roadmap for the built environment

As an outcome of the Beyond 2020 World Conference, Colin Fudge and his colleague Holger Wallbaum have established a “Framework for a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment“.

The framework aims to lay the foundation for regional strategies that can guide the entire sector in working towards sustainable cities and communities, and the goals of the UN Agenda 2030.

Real action

“The conference clearly demonstrated the growing awareness of sustainability issues among more and more actors in the sector. But it’s not enough. Achieving the sustainability goals will require a common understanding among all actors of how they can be achieved – and, not least, real action. That is what we want to contribute to now”, says Holger Wallbaum, Professor in Sustainable Building at Chalmers University of Technology, and host of Beyond 2020.

72 actionable proposals

In the framework, there’s a detailed action plan for north western Europe that contains 72 pragmatic proposals for measures – intended as an inspiration for action.

The proposals cover everything from energy efficiency improvements, research into new building materials, digital tools and renovation methods, to free public transport, more green spaces and cycle paths. They involve all actors from the entire sector – such as architects, builders, real estate companies, material producers and urban planners.

Several of the high-priority measures in north western Europe are under direct governmental responsibility:

  • Higher taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and utilisation of land and natural resources – lower taxes on labour
  • State support for energy-efficient renovation works
  • A plan for large-scale production of sustainable, affordable housing
  • Increased pace in the phasing out of fossil fuels in favour of electric power from renewables

“Here, governments, in collaboration with towns, cities and other sectors, have a key role, as it is political decisions such as taxation, targeted support and national strategies that can pave the way for the radical changes we propose. But all actors with influence over the built environment must contribute to change. In other parts of the world, it may be the business community that plays the corresponding main role”, says Holger Wallbaum.

Measures must be adapted by region

Wallbaum and Fudge are clear that their proposed measures are intended for the countries of north western Europe, and that their work should be seen as an invitation to discussion. Different actors around the world are best placed to propose which measures are most urgent and relevant in their respective regions, based on local conditions, they say.

“Key people and institutions in different parts of the world have accepted the challenge of establishing nodes for the development of regional strategies. From Chalmers’ side, we have offered to support global coordination. Our proposal is that all these nodes present their progress for evaluation and further development at a world conference every three years – next in Montreal, in 2023”, says Colin Fudge.

A thousand participants followed the Beyond 2020 conference, which was arranged by Chalmers 2-4 November in collaboration with Johanneberg Science Park, Rise (Research Institutes of Sweden), and the City of Gothenburg.

Beyond 2020 has the status of a World Sustainable Built Environment Conference (WSBE). Organisers are appointed by iiSBE, a worldwide non-profit organisation whose overall goal is to actively work for initiatives that can contribute to a more sustainable built environment. The next WSBE will be held in Montreal in 2023.

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