26th November 2021

Reflections on COP26 by Gareth Atkinson

Recently I travelled up to Glasgow to become a small part of the COP26 – UN Climate Change Conference. Never has a Conference of the Parties been so widely followed and under such spotlight. The need to decarbonise human activity on our planet towards achieving global temperature rise targets and avert climate change disasters is at code red.

Between Wednesday and Friday of the second week, I spent time meeting with many other professionals in real estate development and who operate in the built environment. I was genuinely buoyed with the enthusiasm and desire of the many I met to drive the green building and green infrastructure agenda.

Putting new practices into operation can be extremely challenging, especially for the earliest of adopters swimming against the current. But change is happening. At the EG Sustainability Live event there was some really positive discussions about change in the form of green finance and developers recognising that the reuse and improvement of existing buildings. For too long sustainability discussions have just been about carbon emissions and not focussed enough on embodied carbon. The adaption and retrofit of our existing building stock has to be the first step for development.

Other highlights of the week included meeting and getting the views of the indigenouspeoples of Brazil, who really know how to let their hair down by the way (I now have some new moves to add my dad dancing repertoire). On a serious note, these people really care about their country, their special forest and need the world to help them.

There couldn’t have been greater positivity from those who attended our Civic Engineers reception on Wednesday evening. Sue Morgan gave a fantastic speech on her views from the Landscape Institute and our very own Stephen O’Malley reflected on the need for channelling our anger for the greater good to drive change and a greener approach in the built environment.

There is hope ahead. Some of the big nations are finally beginning to commit. Let’s hope the words and signatures really, truly turn into solid action. Actions, which as we tread down a brave new world, hopefully accelerate so that we can repair the damage we have done to the planet so that we can begin to live in much better harmony with our home in this universe.

To all of this whom I had the pleasure of sharing some small snippets of time with during COP, thank you and keep up the great work you are doing to help push this change.

Reflections on COP26 by Gareth Atkinson