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COP26: How can the FM sector help tackle global warming?


Currently, the price of renewable technology and green products present a barrier to entry for many UK companies looking to become greener. Green energy comes at higher prices and results in increased procurement costs. It would be encouraging to see greater support from the government with regards to subsidies and investment in green and renewable energy following COP26 to support facilities on their journey towards decarbonisation. Support could include schemes such as financial benefits for those who choose green tech and further financial penalties for the biggest emitters.

As well as financial support, power purchase agreements (PPA) with renewable generators should be made more accessible for small or low energy consuming companies. This could be done through the use of energy baskets, which are an ideal choice for businesses whose energy usage is not always high enough to secure a standalone PPA agreement with a supplier. These would allow a group of businesses to pool their tradable volume with other small customers to improve their buying power by purchasing renewable energy in larger quantities to the benefit of all involved. This is an emerging market, but we need to see large and rapid market growth in this sector to ensure every commercial energy consumer has the ability to easily procure green energy directly from renewable generators, as well as the ability to manage it accurately and efficiently.

Additionally, on-site PPAs is another area that could be subsidised further by the government, with renewable energy being generated on-site and any surplus being stored in a battery or sold back to the grid. Investing in tech generally should be a priority, as energy continues to transition away from being a commodity and moves at an increasing pace towards becoming a technology.

Awareness and education around climate change have increased in recent years, but there must be a continued and enhanced focus on this by the government. Wider and more accessible education aimed across the business community as well as the general public, sponsored by the government, will lead to more action. It is easy to delay resolving issues and ignore them if the dangers and impacts of how we currently live are not being constantly reiterated.

In summary, definitive action towards minimising the carbon footprint of the built environment needs to be facilitated by increased access to renewable energy and more funding from the government, which we hope facilities managers will see following COP26. To drive improved collective industry action and to ensure that everyone is fully aware of the implications of climate change, it must remain front-page news until we have made significant progress across the world.


The headline goal of COP26 is to secure net zero by 2050, and countries are being tasked with submitting ambitious targets for reducing emissions by 2030. Countries need to specifically consider, phasing out coal, curtailing deforestation, accelerating the switch to electric vehicles and encouraging investment in renewable energy sources. These are all ambitious targets and are pointed very much at policy makers and Governments but those of us that work across the built and natural environment can make a significant impact by just focussing on the headline goal of achieving net zero (net zero means reducing emissions in line with latest climate science and balancing remaining residual emissions through carbon removal credits).

The overarching principles of a sustainable approach to the built environment are no different to the principles we need to apply to our own personal lives – do we need that new product? Can we make do with what we have? Can we adapt how we do things? How resilient are our processes? Can we recycle? Can we minimise waste? Can we reduce or substitute our resource demands for energy and water? The challenge for FM professionals is no different, but what COP26 will deliver, is the necessity for all of us to measure our current impact, set specific science-based targets for the future and then monitor and track our progress towards achieving the targets we set.

The development of a plan is the first step and then the opportunities for improvements will flow. The impetus that will be created by COP26 may well lead to a ‘green revolution’ in our sector, driven by the necessity to clearly understand the performance of assets, something we have done within the FM sector for many years. The need to measure, mitigate and improve building performance will require a rich and robust data set, it will need a full understanding of the complex relationship between the asset, its usage and the requirements of the end users and wider stakeholders, allied with a detailed knowledge of how that building’s performance can be improved through expert adaptation in to the future. Investment will be key, and FM professionals (and their customers) will need to take a longer-term view of the solutions required and have a clear understanding of what government support or funding may be available.

COP26 may well be a catalyst for change, but we are already seeing an increasing demand for greener assets and the linkage between an asset’s performance in terms of ESG and its value. In the most recent RICS Global Sustainability report around 60 per cent of respondents indicate an increase in demand from occupiers for greener building stocks whilst across Europe 75 per cent of respondents noted an increase in investor demand for similar assets. This focus on the sustainability performance of the built environment is seen as driving a ‘green premium’ where demonstrable improved sustainability performance will drive higher rent. Those assets that are not improved from an environmental perspective, but which also do not consider the wider socio-economic impact of their existence will decrease in value and eventually become stranded assets as investors and owners alike look for property types that enhance their portfolio and their own sustainable approach to business.

FMs have a fundamental role to play in supporting our sector strive for net zero – and we should also stress that as a sector we should be addressing the wider UN Sustainable Development Goals as well – and this challenge comes with huge opportunities to benefit from a ‘green revolution’ that not only supports our environmental imperatives but also has the potential to drive economic and social improvements across all our communities.

About Sarah OBeirne

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