Report: Achieving Net Zero

Urban practitioners can build on climate emergency declarations with community action to secure London’s future

achieving net zero report launch, new garden quarter

Net zero homes: New Garden Quarter, Stratford. Credit: Pollard Thomas Edwards

Future of London’s Achieving Net Zero report celebrates the city’s sustainability milestones whilst examining what more the built environment sector needs to do. Contributing 40% of the UK’s overall carbon footprint, London must  support the built environment sector to change, and encourage community participation in net zero goals in the wake of Brexit and Covid-19.

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The climate emergency requires an urgent response. Covid-19 may have forced a reduction in carbon emissions, but 2020 was still the joint hottest year on record. With our leaders now taking the emergency seriously, the capital’s policymakers and frontline planning, housing, regeneration and infrastructure practitioners will play an influential role in delivering change.

Our four key recommendations include:

  1. Understanding net zero: agree a common, cross-disciplinary net zero definition to help project partners work from a baseline and monitor performance. This will enable clearer project to project comparison, create examples of best practice (that includes lessons learnt) and help practitioners go beyond net zero.
  2. Driving sector behaviour change: use council, housing association and developers influence and buying power to prioritise sustainability and innovation over price in design, construction and service supply chains, as well as their own internal business practices.
  3. Empowering communities for climate justice: work (jargon-free) with and build the capacity of local people to co-design bottom-up net zero interventions. Focus resources on helping communities that are more vulnerable to climate change due to fuel poverty and limited access to green space.
  4. Brexit and Covid-19: design a step-by-step green recovery roadmap that embeds a circular economy model for neighbourhood management and building and business operations. Address the skills deficit exacerbated by Brexit by delivering training and apprenticeships in the skills needed for city makers and citizens to contribute to the green economy.

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“London has shown itself to be highly ambitious in its vision to achieve net zero, and this is something we should all be proud of. However, as we emerge from Covid-19, urban practitioners must urgently drive forward action that will lead to significant GHG emissions reductions. There are many lessons we can draw from over the last year, one of the most important being the role that behavioural change will play in advancing the net zero agenda in the built environment. Given the sector’s significant contribution to emissions, we cannot afford for action to be driven by a few – it must be standard practice”. Esme Stallard, Climate Change and Cities Consultant, Arup

“This report highlights the need for sector change. We know how important it is to create places that make a lasting positive contribution to our communities and our planet which is why we have committed to our net zero carbon and social value strategies.” Nils Rage, Landsec Sustainable Design and Innovation Manager

“We are delighted to support Future of London’s Achieving Net Zero campaign.  There is much still do to do in the property world to help London achieve its sustainable goals and campaigns such as this are key steps in the right direction to create change.”  Oliver Maury, Head of London Sector, Montagu Evans

“As architects and urban designers, it’s inspiring to see the range of innovative case studies illustrating the challenges of delivering net zero in practice. The report covers the language of climate action – and inaction – reinforcing the message ‘net zero is not enough’ while its emphasis on regeneration, social justice and wellbeing as crucial to tackling the climate crisis is very welcome.” Tom Dollard, Head of Sustainable Design, Associate Partner, Pollard Thomas Edwards

“From planning for resilience and encouraging behaviour change, to tackling existing inequalities and driving a green recovery post-Covid, urban practitioners are on the front line and cross-sector, cross-disciplinary working will be key to securing London’s sustainable future. This report offers insights and practical steps for moving from climate emergency declarations to collaborative net-zero action plans.” Nicola Mathers, Chief Executive, Future of London

Future of London’s report is the culmination of a 12-month project delivered with Arup, Landsec, Montagu Evans and Pollard Thomas Edwards, involving 800 people and 280 organisations across 10 events, expert interviews and case studies building a compelling case for what is needed, and how we achieve net zero together.

More information on the Achieving Net Zero project.

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