Brett Phillips ahead of his COP21 panel on carbon neutrality.

As COP21 comes to a close, Brett Phillips, our Director of Sustainability, reports from Paris, where he took part in the climate negotiations with a presentation on carbon neutrality in the built environment:

History and Future Being Made

Spirits are high here for a historic climate pact as negotiators work feverishly through details in the final agreement. At stake is the inclusion of language that restricts planetary warming to 1.5 Celsius, provides $100 billion a year in public and private financing for mitigation, and creates universal disclosure of emissions reporting. If inked in the final text, the document will mark unprecedented global action among the world’s nations to halt climate change. That being said, key to this success will be a deal that sends a clear signal to global financial markets to move money away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy sources like wind and solar. Without this signal, it will be difficult for the capital markets to react at the scale needed to avoid irreversible climate change. The New York Times captured this concept well. The built environment needs this signal in particular in order to make wider and deeper investments in energy efficiency and onsite renewables across industry verticals.

Cities, Counties, and States are Leading the Way

Cities are on the front lines of climate change. They produce 75% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and are experiencing on-the-ground consequences from increased drought, flooding, and rising sea levels. As a result, leaders from cities and regions around the world are making their voices heard in the fight against climate change, embracing low-carbon transportation, high-efficiency buildings, renewable energy and other strategies to reduce emissions while building more vibrant neighborhoods. This week, the largest global convening of mayors, governors, and local leaders on climate change occurred when nearly 1,000 mayors convened at Paris City Hall to announce that the collective impact of the commitments of more than 360 cities throughout the world will deliver over half of the world’s potential urban emissions reductions by 2020. Read more about the Compact of States and Regions here.

The built environment, which represents over 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is being targeting by these local governments to be part of the solution through changes to land use codes, energy codes, regulations, incentives and other policy tools aimed at reducing emissions.

Businesses are Stepping Up

The business community continues to step up in a big way at COP21 with major organizational commitments to reduce emissions. Building from Bill Gates’ multi-billion dollar Breakthrough Energy Coalition Fund, Google committed to operating its entire operations, including data centers, with 100% renewable energy. The tech giant is one of the latest Fortune 500 companies to join RE100, The Climate Group-led initiative that supports the world’s most influential businesses on their path to 100% renewable energy operations. We’re proud to note that several of Unico’s partners and clients (UBS, Goldman Sachs, Starbucks, and Philips) have also made a public commitment through RE100. For real estate investors, developers, owners, and managers these pledges send an important signal: sustainable building design and operations will be an increasingly important factor in the capital and leasing markets.


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