On July 25, the UN-Habitat held a roundtable on decarbonizing the built environment. Nareit SVP of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Jessica Long joined representatives from UN member states and public and private sector real estate stakeholders to discuss the urgency to accelerate efforts reducing the impact from the building sector.
The meeting was opened by Michal Mlynar, assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director, UN-Habitat, who shared that he saw this as a “high-impact” event and said that the focus on urbanization and the built environment would continue to be an important area of focus for the upcoming global summits. Selwin Hart, special advisor to the United Nations secretary-general on climate action and “just transition,” provided a sobering reminder of the current state of climate science, with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) declaring the next five years would likely be the hottest experienced in human history. Hart added though that a path to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement is still feasible with an ambitious, global, generational collective action this decade.
The final keynote was delivered by Josh Peck, senior policy advisor at The White House, who provided an overview of the Biden administration’s landmark climate bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, which could provide a roadmap for other nations seeking to facilitate government incentives to mobilize the private sector toward investment in climate mitigation.
The meeting included open discussion from manufacturers that are working to decarbonize the production of key building construction materials such as steel and concrete. There was also a strong emphasis on the need to invest in research and development to continue to expand building technologies that will support more efficient and carbon-free building operations. Participants discussed the benefits of integrated processes and the need for real estate stakeholders to take collective responsibility for the environmental footprint of the built environment.
The meeting ended with a reflection on the conversation and a challenge from Deepak Chopra, who urged the group to strive to establish a new story for the industry which would be born from shared vision and emotional passion demonstrated in the roundtable discussion.