Melting ice caps and the plight of polar bears are primetime Saturday night viewing …

… David Miliband is mooting the idea of carbon credit cards, and just this week housebuilders stood shoulder to shoulder with Ruth Kelly to pledge themselves to the building of zero carbon homes within 10 years.

The single most important development in 2006 has been the tectonic shift in our society towards all things environmental. This change of heart and mind is now beginning to alter the way the industry behaves. Contractors such as Wates and Bovis Lend Lease have set tough targets for reducing waste, others are trying to become zero carbon in their dealings, and Adnams, the brewer, won our sustainable client of the year award with a hemp warehouse.

If this greening of the industry is to pick up momentum, it’s vital that clients follow this lead. In his report published last month, Sir Nicholas Stern concluded that it was possible to grow the economy and still be green. But there will be costs attached, which raises difficult questions about 2012. And about Building Schools for the Future, where sustainability has largely been sacrificed to save the department budget. Three new designs have been unveiled this week to try to counter this criticism. But the consultants on the schemes reckon they each need another £3m – and there are 3,160 still to do.

And how are housebuilders to build zero-carbon homes when nobody really agrees on what it means, or how you measure it? John Callcutt has been given the job of showing them how to exploit the available technology without cutting output. This might appear something of a face saver after his departure from English Partnerships, but it is still a canny appointment given his skills and experience. And although the target is a tough one, it is doable and shows that the government really has listened to the housing lobby. Gordon Brown’s move to exempt zero carbon homes from stamp duty is a welcome carrot. That said, none of these things will matter much unless the existing stock is made more energy efficient, as our 99% campaign has pointed out at some length. So, much has changed in 2006 – but there will be far more to play for in 2007.

A big thank you

This is our last issue of 2006 and we’d like to thank you, our readers, for making it such a good year for the magazine. Thanks to all those who bought their own copy and helped to raise our subscriptions to record levels, and to those who wrote in to support our redesign in June. And thanks for the help you gave our journalists – help that enabled them to win nine awards. We’ll be back on 5 January. In the meantime have a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year – and if you're looking for a bit of inspiration for your office party, take a look at the feature linked below …