Sustainable building experts call for urgent steps to transition to net zero cities

Regional and international experts call on all stakeholders to take immediate steps to avoid disastrous effects of climate change

Regional and international experts on the sustainable built environment have highlighted the urgent need to take bold, immediate steps to transition to net zero cities within the coming decade in order to curb the damaging effects of carbon emissions.

Speaking at the 7th Annual Emirates Green Building Council (Emirates GBC) Congress, experts from across the construction industry stressed that the world is currently at the point of no return, and that all stakeholders – including the public – had to take bold, immediate steps to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change.

During his welcome note, Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of EmiratesGBC, referenced the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which stated that “the planet could pass the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold as early as 2030, which would result in severe consequences to the plant,” if there are no concrete efforts made to tackle the current state of carbon emissions worldwide.

“The Congress this year is by far the most important one to date as we face the unprecedented challenge of securing a prosperous future for upcoming generations. We have a small window of opportunity over the next 12 years, to make a significant change and confidently look to our children and future generations and tell them that we did our best and overcame this challenge,” Al Abbar asserted.

“Change is achievable if we start today. We have come a long way in the past 10 years to get to the level of awareness and commitment we have today on sustainability. I believe that with the ingenuity of human spirit, the great minds we have in our industry and the leadership of the government sector that we can rise to the challenge and deliver on our global net zero emissions targets.”

Also speaking at the congress were HE Ahmed Muhairbi, secretary general, Dubai Supreme Council of Energy; and Eng. Hussain Hassan Khansaheb, director of Partnerships & Special Projects, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

The opening session also included a video message from Terri Willis, CEO of the World Green Building Council, in which she urged industry stakeholders to formally endorse and sign the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, which is a significant step aimed at generating the next wave of high momentum to cut down global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the IPCC report, governments around the world must take ‘rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society’ to stem climate change. The Congress mirrored this message, with speakers and attendees concluding with a general agreement that ‘actionable measures must be taken that go beyond the conversation to influence fundamental change’.

There was also a consensus that in addition to governments and the private sector, the public also must play a significant role for this change to take place.

The 2018 Congress’ discussions focused on three sub-themes that were closely related to honouring and promoting the values associated with the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the UAE marks the Year of Zayed this year to commemorate his 100th birth anniversary.

These were: Inspired Cities reflecting the Wisdom of Sheikh Zayed; Collaborative Cities focusing on the value of Respect; and Holistic Cities mirroring the value of Sustainability which caters to the needs of future generations.

The speakers at the Congress presented and discussed strategies for promoting sustainable built environments for the cities of the future within the objectives of the Paris COP21 Climate Agreement. Through presentations and case studies they highlighted the urgency to influence sustainable practices in the UAE’s built environment and to help identify key industry challenges and solutions, while also catalysing innovation in green building practices to create new models that support the country’s efforts to be more sustainable in accordance with Vision 2021.

Following the Congress, EmiratesGBC said that it plans to further develop the conversation and encourage the increased participation of the industry through its recently established Net Zero Centre of Excellence. The centre is a think-tank and accelerator, which provides a platform for government, academia and the private sector to learn and share knowledge on how to advance net zero carbon buildings and push towards net zero carbon buildings and push towards net zero carbon cities within the next decade.

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