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Moving forward from the #ParisAgreement

Jesse Putzel Jesse Putzel 17 Dec 2015

We find ourselves at a cross roads...we have been here before, but it’s different this time.

Following the recent global climate talks in Paris (COP21), we now have an agreement between 196 nations to act on climate change. This is unprecedented and it’s great news. However, the devil will be in the detail that has yet to be developed as an agreement without action means very little.

Governments need to mobilise, creating the policy frameworks that support action, significant investment is needed and ultimately some deep systems change will need to happen, altering the way we think about natural resources. In the wake of the Paris talks, a clear signal has been sent to public and private sectors the world over, that fossil fuels have had their day. The future is for those who are willing to innovate and get behind low carbon economic models. 

While we need strong action from governments (something currently lacking here in the UK), business also has an important role to play. There is something in it for us all - whether it's energy security, adapting to inevitable climate change, curbing future climate migration, generating new profit streams, creating jobs, increasing exports, the lists goes on.

In the building sector, taking strong action on climate change poses a great opportunity. With a special ‘buildings day’ at the talks there was a real spotlight on the role of those within the built environment. Green building councils are gaining support from the construction sector, which "must reduce emissions by 84 GtCO2 by 2050 - the equivalent of taking 22,000 coal-fired power stations out of existence".

All 74 national green building councils, under the umbrella of the World Green Building Council, have now committed to driving 'Net Zero Carbon' new buildings and large scale energy efficient refurbishment of the existing building stock in order to play their role in limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees (you can read more about it here). 

Photo: Hong Kong Green Building Council

There is a lot to do, but firstly we should:

- Work with government to develop a strong framework for action that supports the industry to move towards high levels of energy efficiency (in particular tackling existing buildings) and to develop net zero carbon new buildings.

- Learn from the buildings and assets we produce, how they perform, and how this can be improved either through better design and construction, better management or simply by better understanding what end users need. As we continue to adopt new technology and approaches to enhance our ability to model buildings and their lifecycles, this data and information will be invaluable.

- Lastly, we as businesses need to embrace longer-term strategic thinking, and open the door to new opportunities. In the future, the models we operate now may not be viable. So, what will construction look like in the future and what new business models will emerge? How can we eradicate waste and ensure we create long term value through our products and services?

At BAM, we’ve already started to realise the opportunities. In Holland, BAM is part of the EnergieSprong venture, a joint venture which has created a new model for quickly retrofitting homes to be energy neutral, at no cost to tenants. The venture is now to be launched by a consortium in the UK. This is a great example of a new way of doing business which tackles one of the biggest problems facing us.

We also recently achieved our highest ever ranking in the CDP’s climate index with a place on the global A list. This has helped demonstrate the value of reducing emissions within our own operations and the business opportunities of integrating climate action into our strategy. We are now looking towards the future and how our business can evolve to face the challenges ahead and realise the opportunities embedded within them.


Jesse Putzel is a Senior Sustainability Manager at BAM.

If you would like to talk to us about sustainable development, contact us



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