Skip to main content

Home /Blog /CIC's Climate Change Committee

CIC's Climate Change Committee

Posted: 1st July 2024

Stephen stepped down as the chair of CIC's inaugural Climate Change Committee in June 2024, this blog charts the committees progress since inception.

We have to remind ourselves how far we’ve come with our work in this committee…I’ll endeavour to be brief!

Some of you may recall its genesis which flowed out of a meeting in June 2019 when the Edge met with 25 built and natural environment institutions at the RIBA. Those attending agreed on an urgent and concerted response to achieving the UK’s 2050 net zero emissions target; to continue to work together to establish shared standards and practice; and to continue to develop professional resources and capacity.

In parallel, at my first CIC Council meeting in November that year, as Chair I invited PIs to present briefly their work in relation to climate change. Inevitably, some policies were less developed than others, as were action plans. What was evident was the degree of overlap and duplication. It seemed clear that if were to act collectively in upskilling the respective memberships, the necessary work in addressed such a mammoth task should be shared with each PI bringing their particular expertise and knowledge to the table in the spirit of true collaboration.

After a number of meetings we were able to agree a joint statement between 29 institutions on Climate Change and Biodiversity…an amazing achievement!’

As the timetable for action was very short, as laid out in the ‘Sixth Carbon Budget: the UK’s path to net zero’ published by the national Climate Change Committee, we adopted the Edge’s action plan of 10 areas of work and so this committee was born three years ago. ‘Carbon Zero: the professional institutions’ climate action plan’ was launched in June 2021…a plan for collective, real action. And again, amazingly, 40 organisations signed up to the plan!

I guess one of the highlights for me as Chair was presenting the action plan at COP26 in Glasgow, when I was able to outline the work of the workstreams.

Let me remind ourselves of some of the highlights over the last three years, and please forgive me for key omissions because I believe we’ve achieved so much!…

Workstream 10: Competence/ethics/advocacy (Simon Foxell)

Led by the Edge, Workstream 10 has been working on a twin track approach to its central themes of competence, ethics and advocacy. It is continuing its necessary task of sharing best practice around these themes and ensuring that the signatories to the Plan work together on issues such as advocacy and delivering beneficial policy change. The workstream group has itself become an inter-institutional policy forum for institutional policy advocacy.

Delivering a framework for competence for sustainability in the built and natural environment is an imperative for the near future which we really need to support.

5.9 Emergency response (Peter Egan)

The Institution of Royal Engineers has made dealing with climate change an obligatory part of its training requirements.

It has met with councils to find out how many emergency response plans have been captured and what the level of coordination is, and has been reaching out to institutions, companies and councils to assist them in developing extreme weather event response plans and co-ordinating existing initiatives with partners.

The institution has also been engaging with Military disaster response teams from across the globe to look at best practice and guidance to help industry partners and government planning organisations look to build resilience practices into their organisational activities. Based on this engagement it has created a guidance note aimed at setting out the key principles of resilience planning for engineering and construction projects, alongside more wider advice for response agencies.

5.8 Adaptations and resilience (Lise Benningen)

Workstream 8 continues its focus on knowledge discovery and sharing, making sense of the body of work on adaptation and resilience, work that has already been done, spotting gaps in information and identifying opportunities for further research.

Adaptation and resilience are both massive topics in their own right with existing, dedicated and well-documented knowledge and resources for both the built environment and infrastructure sectors.

Alongside buildings and infrastructure, and inspired by the most urgent adaptation risks, as set out by the Committee on Climate Change[1], the workstream has extended its focus to include biodiversity loss and gain, water availability (drought and flooding), and increased urban heat.

There is now a dedicated LinkedIn page for this workstream and it has launched a webinar series which commences on 3rd July with a discussion on ‘multi-sector innovations in water management’.

5.7 In-use performance (Julie Godefroy)

The main focus of this group has been on the cross-industry Net Zero Carbon Buildings Standard initiative, including a workstream on in-use verification, disclosure and reporting. And this has included;

  • The publication of the first British Standard on in-use building performance evaluation, supported by the Building Performance Network.
  • The on-going development of CIBSE benchmarking platform with future options including identifying and showcasing best practice, and liaising with Built Environment Carbon Database.
  • The support of NABERS UK – a system for rating the energy efficiency of office buildings - through the industry steering group and the provision of training on building simulation.
  • And the collaboration with the revised RIBA Challenge, which proposes targets relating to in-use performance.

In June 2022 CIBSE published a briefing for local authorities on how to introduce in-use energy targets in planning; this received input from LETI and has been shared with the Building Performance Network.

5.6 Finance and risk

This perhaps is the one workstream that has not delivered what I had hoped for given the imperative. Increasingly, I have witnessed the greater consideration of the impact of climate change on funding and insurance.

The CIC has signed an MOU with UK Finance and we perhaps we have not seen the benefit of this relationship to date. Most certainly, and going forward with the plan, I hope this might be redressed.

  1. Land use, transport & infrastructure (Dr Ada Lee)

Last year, the RTPI, together with the Town and Country Planning Association, published The Climate Crisis – A Guide for Local Authorities on Planning for Climate Change…how design codes and standards can align with Net Zero. It provides accessible introduction to the broad issues involved in planning for climate change and is designed to inform the preparation of strategic and local development plans, namely to;

  • Identify weaknesses in the policy framework that prevent the planning system aligning with the UK’s Net Zero obligations and the changes that are required to remedy this.
  • Publish guidance on how design codes and standards can align with Net Zero
  • Identify and introduce new professional responsibilities and support to ensure. decision making in relation to land-use, transport and infrastructure is consistent with net zero obligations.

The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and RTPI have highlighted policy gaps in the delivery of climate goals and made suggestions in at least eight consultation responses over the past year. In particular, in RTPI’s response to the National Planning Policy Framework consultation, the institute pointed out that considerations of climate change have not been sufficiently incorporated in planning policies.

5.4 Resource use (Tony Parasram)

Workstream 4 activity has included:

  • Part Z was presented to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) who have commissioned in-depth research into the impact of embodied carbon regulation, and has committed to running a public consultation on its approach. CIC has made its support for this initiative very clear.
  • Part Z’s Technical Steering Group, of which IStructE’s Will Arnold is a member, has analysed some 550 responses stemming from the consultation run over last summer. Consultation feedback is being fed into ongoing decision-making around items such as carbon limits and required approach to offsetting.
  • A technical writer is in the process of being hired to start writing, with an aim of producing a public draft of the Standard itself this year. BSI have been offering some guidance around this process.
  • The ground granulated blast furnace slag paper has been launched and is now available.

5.3 Energy and carbon efficiency (Judit Kimpian/Jon Greenfield)

Representing one of the subject areas in which information and guidance was first published, Workstream 3 has now moved to a new phase. Appropriate operational and whole life energy objectives are broadly agreed; how the targets can be achieved most quickly and how requisite skills can become part of everyday practice by construction professionals is the new focus..

A cross-institution desire to shift the energy focus to refurbishment, remodelling and retro-fit of existing buildings is being realised, with actions for member institutions to be articulated.

Standard project documentation, such as the RIBA Plan of Work, is in constant evolution, now containing a Passivhaus overlay with signposting to member institutions’ documentation.

There is a growing use of design awards by a number of institutes to record operational and whole life energy project design objectives and set these against post-occupation monitoring data. A good stock of exemplars, with supporting data and evidence of achieved performance, will help designers make effective, evidence-based decisions and highlight areas where there is an avoidable performance gap.

And whilst not delivered by this workstream, of note is the launch of the RIBA’s Ethical Practice Guide designed to improve industry's grasp of ethical decision-making as it relates to the wider world, society, clients, the workplace, the profession, and the individual.

5.2 Standards and regulations (Alex Taylor)

The workstream has been exploring current standards and regulations and looking at how these are being stretched on a voluntary basis. Topic areas covered have included: Whole Life Carbon, Energy, Nature, Resilience, Adaptation and Water.

The need for regulations and standards to be developed with joined up thinking and integration at the forefront has been stressed by the group which has contributed to CIC’s responses on areas such as the National Planning Policy Framework. This focused on how planning policy could support climate change adaptation further and suggested proposals to give significant weight to the adaptation of existing buildings to improve their energy efficiency.

Recently it has played a major role in coordinating CIC's response to the Future Homes and Building Standards consultation, urging government to make up for lost time with an improved plan for healthier, climate resilient homes and buildings.

5.1 Education & Qualifications (Aled Williams)

92% of professional standards setting bodies now include sustainability outcomes as part of the professional assessment in their entrance requirements.

83% of professional institutions which carry out the recognition of education and training programmes stipulate sustainability as mandatory outcomes for learners across a broad range of educational programmes, with these bodies now set to make further enhancements

82% of professional bodies now mandate CPD for professionally registered members, with 25% set to make carbon literacy CPD mandatory by 2025

Output from interviews with PIs, complemented by ‘deep dive’ sessions, perhaps for me, represents one of the most exciting of all our deliverables, the CIC Education and Qualification Toolkit which has been developed to support professional institutions to stimulate thinking and activities in relation to sustainability and climate literacy.

And so to conclude, I sense the agenda for this committee has transitioned since its inception, from addressing over 70 deliverables to a vehicle for the exchange of knowledge. As I hand over to Mina Hasman, under her leadership, it is for you all to perhaps think about its future direction.

Of course, Mina requires no introduction. Named as one of the TIME100 most influential climate leaders in business in the world, author of the ‘RIBA Climate Guide’, amongst many other credits, I believe the committee is in very good hands. Thank you for all the support over the last 4 years, to Simon for all your hard work and advice, to Matt, and all the workstream leads. And of course this concludes a thoroughly rewarding, and enlightening, six years with the CIC