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Real Estate Needs To Stop Putting Up So Many New Buildings, MPs Say

The UK is committed to reducing carbon emissions by 68% by 2030.

The UK’s real estate sector needs better support if it is to reach its climate goals, an influential committee of MPs has said.

Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has said that at current rates of progress the UK’s built environment will fail to reach its climate net-zero targets and the government should place much greater emphasis on retrofitting buildings.

The property and construction sector accounts for a quarter of UK emissions, the committee said, with the embodied carbon targets “largely ignored”. 

“To reduce the levels of CO2 in construction, for instance when using cement and steel, EAC recommends that the Government introduce a mandatory requirement for whole-life carbon assessments for buildings.” the report said, adding that changes should be rooted in the UK's planning system.

The EAC also recommended using a far higher proportion of low-carbon materials in projects, including recycled steel and timber.

“From homes to offices, retail units to hospitality venues, our buildings have a significant amount of locked-in carbon, which is wasted each time they get knocked down to be rebuilt, a process which produces yet more emissions.” EAC Chairman Philip Dunne MP said. 

“Promising steps are being taken ... but much more needs to be done, and baseline standards for action need to be established. Mandatory whole-life carbon assessments, and targets to crack down on embodied carbon, provide part of the answer.

“Constructors and developers can then determine which low-carbon materials, such as timber and recycled steel, they can use.”

The real estate sector has begun to move in the direction of more sustainable building practices in the last half-decade. Earlier this month an investment management firm set up by former Unibail-Rodamco chief executive Guillaume Poitrinal announced that it was raising a new €1B (£848M) fund to develop sustainable commercial buildings using wood and will look to build in the UK for the first time. 

The UK has committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and agreed to reduce emissions by 68% by the end of the decade at the recent COP26 climate summit in Scotland.