I attended my first Zoom-based Webinar since working from home last week (well I have been busy), an excellent session run by @futureofldn focusing on how London's development industry was responding to the climate emergency. The first in a series that we are co-sponsoring on #NetZeroLDN.  It was enlightening, inspiring and daunting in equal measure.  

A mixed performance on the public sector side it seems.  Whilst 27 of the 32 London boroughs have declared climate emergencies; they have made commitments of varying ambition, scale and composition. The range of interventions shared by Camden, Lambeth and Hounslow in the first half of the session were much more diverse than I expected, and reached all corners of the Council's spheres of influence - both direct and indirect. The linked document below usefully frames these "3 Scope" greenhouse gas emissions, and shows how the public sector in particular can bring its buying power to bear.    

The presentations from the private sector practitioners that followed, including our very own Peter Bovill, illustrated the very different front line planning, design and development experiences of carbon reduction across the property sectors. I remain continually impressed with how seriously @LandsecGroup are taking the issue.

In what is a complex space for many, including me, I took away a few simple but important takeaways:

  • The current reliance upon and emission impact of gas-based energy systems is astonishing.  And yet converting this to electricity-based systems is no mean feat. LB Camden estimate that to get to zero carbon by 2030 would require photovoltaics across approx 60% of the borough (yes by gross area).
  • Whilst Councils have a major role to play in reducing carbon footprint across their estate, they have a much more important role in bringing about change among their business and domestic communities (typically around 95% of a borough's carbon footprint).
  • Linked to this, the role of the community is yet again fundamental to making the progress needed. And to harness this the public, private and third sectors need to work together to support and empower communities to meet the challenge (the presenting Councils had lots of experience to share!). I'd hope that Covid-19 may well embolden efforts to work more collaboratively in a way that might be turned towards the zero carbon agenda.  
  • Harnessing and sharing performance data on new products (and services) is mission critical, and need not contravene data protection measures or threaten corporate sensitivities. Tech platforms could have a huge role to play here.

And now a call to arms after some of my own self-reflection.  

We all have a role to play in this most gargantuan of challenges. The impact that our industry has in this space is huge, and the role of Councils and developers within this is clearly significant. But as practitioners affecting day to day decisions we also have a responsibility to come at the issue as fully informed as possible, to be proactive, encouraging and prepared to learn. I for one will no longer be a semi-passive observer. In that way I look forward to the rest of the @futureofldn 2020 #NetZeroLDNprogramme, for which we welcome input and ideas from around the industry. If anything sharing understanding and experience is our principal objective.