Built environment Consultative Meeting for the Global Strategy on SCP & SDG12
This consultative meeting was convened in close coordination with One Planet network’s Sustainable Buildings & Construction programme, Global Alliance on Buildings and Construction, Sustainable Infrastructure Partnership, UN-Habitat and UNOPS. The consultation had more than 40 participants representing leading initiatives and UN entities working on the built environment.
2022 is a key transition year for the UN Framework for Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) and its One Planet network (OPN). The Second Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the extension of the 10YFP mandate, which confirms the need for an ambitious post-2022 Global Strategy for SDG 12 and SCP. Developing a new strategy will enable the One Planet network to join hands with other actors, alliances and partnerships working on the transition to a more sustainable, low carbon, inclusive and circular economy, to more rapidly achieve the scale of the economic transformation required.
This consultative meeting was part of the “scoping phase” of the strategy roadmap, which was elaborated in close consultation with Member States and partners and aimed at identifying priority areas and actions that can shift the needle in high-impact systems/sectors and where the strategy and the One Planet network can have strong added value. In this way, one of the main objectives of this meeting was to bring together relevant expert partners to review, based on existing knowledge, the transformative outcomes needed in the Built Environment to achieve SDG12 and address the triple planetary crisis.
Here are some of the points that were explored and brought up during the built environment consultative meeting:
On transitioning to the term “built environment”
- It was proposed to broaden the scope from buildings and construction to the built environment, which will enable us to leverage more the enabling programmes, education, finance, procurement, etc.
- The World Green Building Council also work on a more systemic approach and do not have “buildings days” but “cities days”. There is a need to look at a more city perspective with a more united ambition. From a carbon emission perspective, they realized that it will be difficult to tackle building carbon emissions without also targeting infrastructure emissions.
On addressing climate change
- A lot of traditional focus of carbon management has been focusing on energy efficiencies. A lot of GHG emissions comes from the extraction of the materials during the production process, so there is a need to start focusing on embedded energy.
- It is crucial to systematically incorporate circularity in the system, incl. key principles of circularity in conventional consumer goods also applies to the built environment: reuse, share, repair, remanufacture can be included in descriptions of the value chain.
- The role the OPN could play in is to focus on the enabling environment through the life cycle approach. There is an opportunity to focus on the key points in the life cycle and the value chain in which we can improve the enabling environment to ensure that sustainable construction practices are applied.
On consumer information and human rights
- There is a need for tools to increase consumer information. The communication of the sustainable BE needs to be done in a right way to ensure uptake from the consumers to the products that are being offered. It is important to also work utilisation/operation of the BE to ensure that the projects are not only built but also used in a sustainable human-centred approach.
- A particular focus should be placed on the demand side, i.e., how can the program address the drivers of consumption for the BE, the need to build (or not), how to build and how to keep resources in the system (circularity). This would include the perspectives of investors, developers, and end-users (corporate occupiers, tenants, owners), but also urban planning, etc.
- The group discussed human rights as an enabler and what elements it should consider. It was agreed that it should address inequalities and consider communities, housing accessibility and affordability, access to public space and basic services (rights-based approach), but also workforce exploitation.
On including public procurement
- We need to focus more on advocating for national policies which move us in the direction of “greener” infrastructure. Today, there is still a lot of freedom in not going the green way but OPN can serve as a communication platform to engage key decision-makers so that we can make improvements to the enabling environment over the lifecycle of a construction project.
- The Sustainable Public Procurement program can support with its Interest Groups on building and construction sector and on measuring and reporting (progress towards SDG12.7.1 implementation at the national level). Both of these groups can collaborate more on the “built environment”.
On engaging the business sector
- Participants agreed on the importance of business engagement, including (local) SMEs.
- An important opportunity are the infrastructure and green recovery programs. How are these new COVID-19 packages helping us? How can the strategy be included in these big policies? The role of subsidies is crucial in this. The new report “Protecting Nature by Reforming Environmentally Harmful Subsidies: The Role of Business” shows that 90 billion minimum a year is being spent in the construction on subsidies that harm the environment. We need to think about adverse incentives. Subsidies could be interesting to focus on and need to be linked to consumption and production. We need to affect investment patterns.
- It is important to have a public-private partnerships with governments and building associations/alliances and encourage them to work together with businesses to achieve the systemic transformations.
On collaborating, sharing, monitoring
- The participants also agreed that the strategy should tackle the outstanding conceptual issues of SCP and circularity, as it is currently challenging to follow SDG12. Circularity lacks a 'catchy target' - like 'net zero by 2050' - how can we come together to find a central target? They also pointed out that SDG12 should be presented not just as stand-alone SDG but as a cross cutting one.
- A lot of activities are happening on the highest level, while there is a need to bring them to the ground level. OPN can provide support by taking messages to the regional level stakeholders. E.g., in the planning phase of a construction, where the challenges are that contractors might face are not addressed.
- Alignment, coordination, or cross linking between different relevant knowledge platforms would be extremely useful. Users tend to find it difficult to find or navigate the wealth of available information and resources.