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Focus On Miami Disappearing And Cities Overwhelmed By Mass Migration, Not Trump, Former UN Secretary General Tells Real Estate

Ban Ki-moon

CANNES, France — Former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the real estate industry to reject the thinking of the developer who became president and show leadership in combating climate change.

In a keynote address to open the Mipim property conference in Cannes, France, Ban said the real estate industry will be hit particularly hard by the financial impact of climate change and had a key role to play in reducing its onset and mitigating its effect.

“If climate change is not properly addressed it can devastate everything you have built,” he said, pointing to recent wildfires in California and hurricanes that have affected the East Coast of the U.S.

“The real estate market faces a serious predicament from a climate-driven financial crisis. Rising sea levels pose a risk to many of the great cities of the world, like New York, Tokyo or Hong Kong, or scenic places like the French Riviera where we are today. I recently visited Miami and toured the city with Mayor Francis Suarez, and people there are struggling to live above the water.”

A report last year from tech firms GeoPhy and FourTwentySeven identified the REITs most at risk from climate change impact.

Ban pointed out the second-order effects that climate change would cause. With coastal areas underwater, mass migration to safer cities would cause serious social unrest and create issues around the shortage of housing in already overcrowded urban areas.

“I have been speaking out about what President Trump has been doing [in pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement on climate change]. It is very short-sighted, it is unscientific, wrong, and he should not be doing this to humanity. I was, however, encouraged by the more than 350 city leaders and thousands of businesses who said, 'We’re still in.'”

Ban’s address offered a few practical ideas of how the real estate industry can help combat climate change.

“I would implore you to include thinking on climate change in your investment decision-making process,” he said.

“Take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases from your properties. Scale up the climate change activity in your portfolios. Make sure your buildings are accredited.”

When asked by Bisnow how an industry like real estate, where the focus is on returns in the short to medium term, can be prompted to address longer-term issues that can be hard to grasp here and now, Ban said attending conferences and sharing best practices to spread ideas, and forging partnerships with other industries, were key.