Carbon neutrality and paying for sustainability

Two bits of food for thought regarding sustainability this morning.

First, over to China. The Climate Group, a coalition of global governments and business committed to tackling climate change, is taking a look at China's efforts to curb urban carbon emissions in conjunction with the launch of a new low-carbon development initiative with 20 of the country's cities.

The report, China's Low Carbon Leadership in Cities, highlights eight Chinese cities now deploying low carbon technologies like LED lighting, solar power, electronic vehicles, and other technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also details four key leadership tool for an urban low-carbon development strategy:

1. Policy incentives

2. Technology innovation

3. Financing mechanisms

4. International cooperation

In this vein, The Climate Group's city program aims to recruit, motivate, and engage 20 Chinese cities in a five-year campaign to transform and accelerate the local market for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Signed up so far: Guiyang City in southwest China and Dezhou City in the east.

Also on the green front, in the U.K., Taylor Wessing has released a Sustainability Report that examined the U.K. development industry's awareness of, and attitudes towards, the environmental and green agenda. Among its findings:

– The word "sustainability" is, itself, problematic, as there is lack of an industry-wide consensus on what the term actually means. For this survey, it was defined as "meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," and included the objectives of minimizing carbon emissions; the conservation of resources; maximizing economies in the use of energy; eliminating unnecessary waster and optimizing recycling opportunities; and setting measurement criteria for how buildings meet these objectives.

– In addition to coming to a consensus on what sustainability truly means, it must be communicated to all industry sectors in a common "commercial" language that all stakeholders can understand.

– End users are beginning to take a more holistic approach to finance and cost, particularly within younger demographics. "The apparent disconnect between what the industry believes landlords and tenants would be willing to pay in order to secure a sustainable building, and what end users actually say merits further research." Notably, 87 percent of end users believe that the typical corporate occupier would be willing to pay more rent to secure a long-term sustainable building.

– Three quarters of respondents indicate that they are likely to be involved with renewable energy sources as an element of property development going forward.

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