Cannes delegates accepted the need for more sustainable building but were very dubious about the government's preferred route

This year saw an inevitable increase in discussion, both formal and informal, over sustainability in Cannes this year. It wasn’t hard to detect some cynicism though. As we prepared to hear deputy mayor Nicky Gavron detail the bold and grand plans for making London the greenest city in the world at a breakfast session on Wednesday morning I overheard one of the audience quip: “I’ve come along to hear what we’re going to be clobbered with next”.

The scepticism, similar to that held among the general public, is two-fold: a political reaction to environmental clampdowns as merely an excuses to tax businesses and individuals; and a growing frustration about the route some authorities are taking to meet their ambitious targets.

The second worry is much more prevalent. It was voiced over a lunch I attended the next day with a mix of architects, developers, project managers and engineers. No one was quite convinced over the vast array of statistics being thrown around the subject. And new technologies, especially wind, received short shrift. The project manager quoted a statistic given to him about installing a turbine on a new scheme in the capital. “The payback is 125 years. What’s the point of that?” And one engineer over lunch voiced his opinion that the 10% renewables target for new development was “bollocks”.

It’s similar to the oft-quoted opinion of UK Green Building Council chairman Peter Rogers who sees the way buildings are constructed, the thermal mass, delineation etc, and the way they are operated as much more central to making buildings more efficient than the more PR-friendly renewables route.

For more updates on event at last week's MIPIM and on sustainability go to Zero Champion and MIPIM 2007