ULI: Policymakers, Industry Must Collaborate on Climate Change

The Urban Land Institute, Washington, D.C., said policymakers and the real estate industry must work together when creating climate mitigation policies to maximize their effectiveness.

“The scale of this climate challenge is immense, but by working together, the public and private sectors can create the right policy and economic structures to achieve building sector net carbon neutrality by mid-century while simultaneously enhancing the resilience and social equity of cities around the world,” said Brian Swett, Boston Office Leader with engineering consulting firm Arup Group Ltd., London.

The ULI report, Decarbonizing the Built Environment, said 31 U.S. cities have energy benchmarking policies, of which 15 require structures meet performance targets or undertake additional actions such as energy audits. More than 70 U.S. cities have pledged to be carbon-neutral by 2050.

ULI said the report provides a starting point for cities seeking to engage local real estate leaders while shaping climate mitigation policies and for real estate organizations looking to increase their understanding of how to engage on these policies. Each principle in the report came from sustainability workshops that engaged 60-plus public and private leaders.

Principles outlined in the report include:

–Calculate a baseline, then set both interim and aspirational goals;

–Involve stakeholders early and continuously;

–Understand the business of real estate;

–Align the city’s climate goals with the larger policy ecosystem to ensure consistency;

–Connect the climate action plan to the city’s other social and economic goals;

–Be comprehensive in subjecting all buildings to the new plan;

–Prioritize existing buildings; and

–Be flexible in achieving goals.

The report cited several cities that worked with their local real estate communities, including Boston, where the Boston Green Ribbon Commission meets twice a year and technical working groups meet throughout the year; and Seattle, where the Seattle Buildings Tune-Ups Ordinance requires commercial buildings of more than 50,000 square feet to undergo a “tune-up” process to assess their building for operational and maintenance problems and make required corrections. Seattle also provides alternative pathways for buildings to comply.

“Public and private sector collaboration will be crucial to advancing greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the built environment,” said Garrett Fitzgerald, Strategic Collaboration Director with the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a peer network of local government sustainability directors from more than 200 U.S. and Canadian communities.