Summary: "A New York City's worth of building every month for the next 40 years." With current predictions for population growth and urbanisation, that is what is probably required - a doubling of the current global building footprint. One of the stats from the Eco-Business "Cities: Possibilities 2022 - COP27: The road to implementation" conference in Singapore. Examples of concrete steps (no pun intended) taken towards net-zero, as well as challenges they have faced, highlighted some commonalities including integrating sustainability into the entire life-cycle of the business. A transition to sustainable green cities has lots of challenges requiring a holistic approach engaging with all stakeholders including a city's citizens. Scaling solutions was seen as a key challenge with regulation polling as the biggest challenge, although panellists felt it could in fact be the biggest driver!
Why this is important: Ultimately not all innovation will work and so there is a need to consider different pathways to reach the same long term 2050 target. That requires a focus on the next 2-3 years as well as that longer term. That can make funding through traditional channels difficult and calls for a more collaborative and blended investment approach. Finally, when considering the implementation of projects it is key to understand that financial returns are not necessarily at odds with sustainability.
The big theme: The built environment is an important sustainability theme, both as an integral part of societal existence but also a major decarbonisation (40% of energy-related GHG emissions) and resource consumption problem (40% of global raw materials) that needs investor attention. Including residential and commercial buildings, communal areas such as parks and supporting infrastructure such as energy networks, mobility, and water supply, it can have significant impacts on our health, well-being and equity & inclusion as more efficient buildings can be more affordable. The health and well-being of people using the built environment (remember it is not only buildings but also the supporting infrastructure including parks, roads etc) is also crucial to enable a more sustainable way of living.
Summary of my takeaways from Eco-Business Cities: Possibilities 2022:
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend (virtually) the Eco-Business "Cities: Possibilities 2022 - COP27: The road to implementation" conference in Singapore. This is where I got the "NYC" stat - thanks to Vinamra Srivastava, Chief Sustainability Officer, of CapitaLand Investment in his highly insightful keynote presentation.
The focus of the event was on implementation, the "how" and this is where the private sector has a huge role to play. There are some encouraging things happening, such as CapitaLand's 'Sustainability X Challenge' and the 'Liveability Challenge 2023' led by the Temasek Foundation, but also still much that needs to be done.