Rishi Sunak urges delegates to deliver after his commitment to climate action had been questioned

The UK Green Building Council has urged UK representatives at COP27 to “remain steadfast” in keeping alive the 1.5C global warming target.

This year’s climate summit began yesterday in Sharm el-Sheikh, with the UK handing over the presidency to Egypt following last year’s landmark conference in Glasgow.


Source: 10 Downing Street

Rishi Sunak addressed the conference yesterday. He had initially said he would not attend the summit held in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt

Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive of UKGBC, said the UK had “positioned itself as a global climate leader” at COP26 and this commitment needed to be maintained.

“The science clearly shows we’re running out of time to deliver the radical change needed to prevent a climate breakdown,” she said.

>> Also read: Strong and stable? This government is anything but when it comes to energy infrastructure

>> Also read: Testing our mettle: the challenges of driving down our carbon footprint

“While there will always be domestic challenges to navigate, the climate crisis needs our attention now more than ever. We must remain steadfast in keeping 1.5 degrees alive.”

In his speech at the conference yesterday, prime minister Rishi Sunak said that Glasgow had kept the 1.5C goal within reach and the question for this summit was “can we summon the collective will to deliver” last year’s promises.

Sunak said climate action was “economically right” as well as “morally right” and went “hand in hand with energy security”.

“By honouring the promises we made in Glasgow and by directing public and private finance towards the protection of our planet we can turn our struggle against climate change into a global mission for new jobs and clean growth and we can bequeath our children a greener planet and a more prosperous future,” he added.

The prime minister had sparked concerns about his commitment to the climate crisis after removing the COP26 president Alok Sharma from his cabinet and initially refusing to attend the Egypt summit, before eventually caving in to pressure.

Hirigoyen, who is set to leave the UKGBC next summer, said the built environment was responsible for a quarter of the UK’s carbon footprint and said the government needed to put in place “strategic long-range policies” to enable the net zero transition in the sector.

She added: “COP27 is an opportunity to boldly present the significant business force behind the sustainable built environment movement in the UK, showing government that we remain committed to this pathway and championing the growth opportunities which net zero can deliver.

“That is precisely why UKGBC is calling on its members and businesses across the built environment to demonstrate their commitment to reducing emissions through signing up to the UN-backed race to zero campaign.”

Engineering services group Actuate UK also called for a more focused and consistent policy from government, with the deputy chair of its net zero group, Paul Reeve, calling for greater collaboration between government, clients, the product supply chain, the businesses that install and maintain products and systems, and users and operators.

“The engineering services sector has an essential role in the delivery of ‘fabric first’ with its active carbon reduction measures in both new and existing buildings and infrastructure,” he said.