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We have 2,000 days to build the transition — what our network achieved at the WorldGBC Leadership Summit 2024

Friday 5 July 2024

By Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC.


Pictured above: Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC

We have 2,000 days to rise to the 2030 climate challenge. Even with the zeitgeist on our side, we have a huge gap to bridge in the building and construction sector; but everything I saw at the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) Leadership Summit 24–27 June 2024 from our remarkable community tells me that we have what it takes to meet our goals.

52 Green Building Councils and numerous built environment leaders from around the globe joined us in London for our Summit. The sense of urgency, hope and camaraderie was palpable as we all felt acutely aware of our collective responsibility to build a better future and create the global momentum necessary for people and the planet to thrive.

37% of the world’s emissions come from the built environment. Removing, or even significantly reducing this, will be no small feat to accomplish. Yet despite the scale of the challenge, the conversations I had during the week have only solidified my confidence that we can harness the power of our network to break through barriers, foster collaboration and truly deliver on our shared global ambition through local action.

The WorldGBC network alone covers 60% of the world’s building stock and 65% of global GDP, while the countries represented account for 72% of built environment emissions. When we all push in the same direction, we can be an unstoppable force for change.

My opening challenge to the audience at our Global Solutions Forum was to ensure that the world we wake up to on 1 January 2030 is one that we have built better. 

Empowering the finance community

“It’s now cheaper to save the world than destroy it”. Powerful opening words from Akshat Rathi, Bloomberg News journalist and author of Climate Capitalism, kicking off the WorldGBC Global Solutions Forum, a flagship event of London Climate Action Week (LCAW), on 25 June.

The financial sector is now wide awake to the risks and opportunities of climate mitigation and resilience in the built environment sector. EY’s finance sector survey tells us 78% of investors believe that companies should make investments that address environmental, social and governance issues relevant to their business – even if it reduces profits in the short term.

Pictured above: Akshat Rathi, Bloomberg News journalist, gives the opening speech of the Global Solutions Forum

The financial viability of the sustainable transition came across strongly throughout the day, as industry leaders and investment experts laid out the foundations for aligning industry, policy and finance. We learned that getting money flowing in the right direction will unlock a vast investment opportunity in green buildings. It’s estimated that the size of this market could grow by an estimated 38% by 2030.

The question then becomes how we can ensure that we maximise the potential of investment in our sector? As one panellist, WorldGBC board member and energy efficiency specialist Elizabeth Chege put it, we need to look “under the hood” at where data and local action are necessary to drive this flow of finance into green buildings.

To facilitate this transition, we also welcomed an alliance of diverse GBCs including Green Building Council of Australia, Singapore Green Building Council, U.S. Green Building Council, and Alliance HQE – GBC, which launched a guide on the role green loans and bonds can play in delivering the transition. 

What became clear over the course of the day is the crucial role our network plays in aligning and partnering to bring clarity and help financial actors understand the benefits of sustainable long-term thinking; to support them in improving their risk profiles and taking advantage of new business models and incentives to grow the green market. 

Building on political momentum

Recent months have shown an increase in political momentum for a green transition and there is a clear mandate to decarbonise our sector. In a much needed effort to improve Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which have seen little to no progress since 2020, the UAE Consensus requires countries to arrive at the UN Climate Summit COP30 in Brazil with updated NDCs. These are commitments by each country to reduce national emissions and advance adaptation efforts to the impacts of climate change. 

Pictured above: Simon Sharpe, Director of Economics, High-Level Climate Champions Team announces Buildings Breakthrough with Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC

Going beyond this, the Buildings Breakthrough and the Declaration De Chaillot outlined ambitious programmes for the sector, including implementing roadmaps, regulatory frameworks and mandatory building and energy codes, which are so far only present in ​​26% of countries

We are fully committed to delivering on this mandate and increased political ambition, through our work leading the Buildings Breakthrough Priority Action 1, ‘Standards and Certification’. We were thrilled when Simon Sharpe, Director of Economics, High-Level Climate Champions Team announced this during the Global Solutions Forum. As part of this role, WorldGBC will work with national GBCs, key international organisations and countries to establish common principles and definitions to deliver ‘near zero emission and resilient buildings’.

This exemplifies the power of WorldGBC’s local-regional-global network in supporting governments to develop robust building policy, providing a space for collaboration and learning across borders.

A new strategic direction

When we lead transformation on a large scale, we must not forget to also strive for continuous improvement and evolution within our own organisations and teams for enhanced impact.

Pictured above: Solitaire Townsend, Chief Solutionist & Co-Founder of Futerra, gives the closing speech at the Global Solutions Forum

Our 2020–2023 strategy has borne fruit and established the built environment as a critical climate solution on the global stage. In our latest survey we registered that: 

  • 90% of our member GBCs reported an increase in awareness of the importance of sustainability in their market, with the strongest increases in Africa and Europe
  • 78% of GBCs reported industry and businesses are increasingly taking up sustainable building principles, particularly in Africa and Asia Pacific
  • 60% saw an increase in requests from government on sustainable building guidance for improving policies.

Now is the time for our strategy to build on this hard-earned awareness and shift from persuasion to practice, giving people the tools for change and the plans to deliver it. 

Our sharpened strategy will capitalise on the foundations that our network has built and lean into successful collaborative programmes to drive local implementation of our global collective goals. 

Together with our global network, we aim to supercharge the ambition loop, creating a positive feedback system in which bold government policies, private sector and civil society leadership and finance investment reinforce each other, making substantial change possible. 

Our approach centres on three core activities:

  • Co-creating national sector roadmaps
  • Amplifying global, regional and local advocacy
  • Fostering transparency and comparability of standards and codes.

Roadmaps are a recognised and proven tool to galvanise industry action, create strong support and buy in, and align with policy advocacy opportunities:

  • In Europe, our roadmaps have helped catalyse a major shift in industry thinking, amongst industry from mainly considering operational carbon to now taking the whole lifecycle into account
  • In the EU27, the largest decrease in GHG emissions in 2022 was observed in the buildings sector, within which emissions decreased by 6.5%
  • In the global south, countries like Colombia and India have seen similar successes and adoption is rapidly expanding in countries such as Mexico and, moving into implementation and delivery through collaboration with partners and local governments.

What’s next for the built environment community?

Pictured above: the global GBC network on day 4, AGM

We are at an inflection point. As the urgency grows, the scale and speed of our efforts to transform our built environment must double. To stay within the 1.5 C limit, we cannot simply catch up; we have to get ahead and keep going. We must capitalise on the inspiring signals of change we saw during the Summit to deliver larger impact through: 

  • Empowering changemakers to deliver progress. By providing our network’s key agents of change, with business leadership at the helm, with clear roadmaps to help them understand the role they play in the transition and key actions.
  • Equipping finance actors with guidance and tools. These will support them in assessing financial risks and opportunities alongside sustainability impact metrics, which allow comparability whilst also providing contextualised impact.
  • Enabling ambitious, equitable policies by inspiring politicians with the big picture.  We can provide them with a vision, supported by market and scientific data, of how low carbon and sustainable building and finance policies can, and will, deliver on the priorities of their citizens.

Thank you to all of you who joined us at this incredible week, whether in person or online. It was an honour to see your absolute dedication to our unified mission. You can view the videos from the event here, and the photos here

As Simon Sharpe noted, there is no exact moment when transformation happens. No switch that gets flipped. It happens continuously, every day, if we are all willing, as Solitaire Townsend, Chief Solutionist & Co-Founder of Futerra, put it, to be solutionists. 

Thank you to everyone who joined us at the event. From Chile to Hong Kong, we had representatives from across the network and beyond. And a special thanks to all our sponsors, Knight Frank and Sidara (Platinum), Arup (Gold), City Developments Limited (Silver), and also to UKGBC for all their support.

There is so much work to be done – but our network has shown us that they’re already leading the way. Let’s make it count. Let’s keep #BuildingTheTransition.