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December 2023

Shaping Sustainable Futures: Key Priorities at COP28 for the Built Environment


Shaping Sustainable Futures: Key Priorities at COP28 for the Built Environment

As the world gears up for COP28, the spotlight on sustainability in the built environment intensifies. The Multilevel Action, Urbanization, Built Environment, and Transport Day promises to be a pivotal session, featuring discussions on a range of critical topics. As we approach this global climate event, JBA reviews the key issues and themes that demand attention and action. Our thoughts echo at of Amanda Williams CIOB Head of Sustainability.


At the forefront of discussions is the commitment of nations to a Buildings Breakthrough target. The call for near-zero emission and resilient buildings to be the norm by 2030 has garnered support from 25 countries, including the UK. Expanding this community is vital, but the industry must also be prepared to meet the challenge. Commitments should extend beyond new constructions to the crucial task of decarbonising existing building stock.

Embodied Carbon

A pressing concern is the pace of action on embodied carbon. The urgency to address the emissions associated with a building’s materials, from extraction to end-of-life treatment, cannot be overstated. Transparency and data sharing throughout the material and building lifecycle are essential. Standardised approaches and requirements for embodied carbon assessments may be necessary to accelerate progress in this critical area.

Costing Carbon

Amanda asks – should development projects come with a carbon budget, mirroring financial budgets? The incorporation of carbon impact considerations at every stage of a project could reshape decision-making, ensuring sustainability features are not ‘value engineered’ out. The time is ripe to redefine project value, recognising the importance of both financial and carbon metrics.


The importance of collaboration echoes through UN Sustainable Development Goal 17. The sector must shift its perspective, valuing collaboration as much as competition. Achieving necessary reductions across the lifecycle of a building demands collaboration across the value chain. The emphasis on collaboration aligns with the current CIOB presidential theme, advocating for a united industry.

Climate Risk, Resilience, Adaptation

The built environment sector must lead in resilience, placing adaptation at the forefront of design, construction, maintenance, and occupation. While mitigation remains crucial, preparing for an uncertain future is equally imperative. COP28 discussions should underscore the need for proactive measures to address climate risks in the built environment.

The Dual Crisis: Climate and Nature

The intricate connection between the climate crisis and the nature crisis cannot be ignored. Hard infrastructure ranks as a significant driver of man-made pressure on biodiversity. COP28 provides an opportunity for the built environment industry to reflect on its role in protecting and restoring nature. Addressing these twin crises together is paramount to achieving meaningful, lasting solutions.


As COP28 continues, the built environment stands at a crossroads – a critical juncture where decisions and commitments will shape the trajectory of sustainability. It’s time for the industry to rise to the challenge, embracing collaboration, transparency, and innovative solutions. By addressing these key issues, the built environment can transition from being part of the problem to a resolute contributor to a sustainable future. The urgency is clear, and the time for decisive action is now.