Is future-proofing our towns and cities against climate change a national security issue?

  • 25 Feb 2014

Paul Toyne, Sustainability Director, Balfour Beatty CSUK will be speaking at Ecobuild 2014

Is future-proofing our towns and cities against climate change a national security issue?

What do the following have in common? Future cities, green energy, design, retrofit and refurbishment, water, waste and materials, building performance and BIM? Answer: They are the topic themes for Ecobuild 2014.

Broadly speaking if re-ordered in a sequence that follows the built environment project life cycle, and with the addition of finance and a general heading of procurement to include contracts, they are the right themes to run the UK’s most important live experiment. This experiment would have the hypothesis: “does the integrated delivery of them using the principles of sustainable development result in a sustainable built environment”.

Finance is a key ingredient if our experiment is to get off the ground. The recent flooding has brought into sharp relief that climate change is a national security issue.  As Nicholas Stern’s Review on the economics of climate change told us back in 2006  delaying moving to a low carbon economy and future-proofing of built environment will make it more expensive for us. Stern’s economic assessment increased from 1% of GDP in 2006, to 2% in 2008. How much today in 2014, but more importantly how much in 2018 or later? It should not take the wettest January on record and flooding across vast areas of the UK for us to actually focus on this critical national issue. The costs of the clean-up are still being estimated, but surely we should invest to save against similar future costs. So my experiment would include Government investing in a better “insurance policy” through mitigation and adaptation measures.  

Britain’s sustainable building sector is second to none – we are world leaders in resilience engineering. We would urge the Government to utilise the expertise of the sector to be showcased at this year’s Ecobuild conference. The UK infrastructure sector has the skills, experience and talent to deliver a more sustainable built environment. We want to work in partnership with Government to  develop the enabling framework and investment industry needs to  deliver these objectives.

Our citizens’ deserve a much better quality of life than currently offered and we have the professionals that can deliver this – security, health and well-being are fundamental – which includes protection against flooding. Industry, Government, sustainability experts and climate change scientists all have a responsibility to make our towns and cities more resilient to climate change whilst pursuing the low carbon economy – creating local employment opportunities and establishing skills exportable to international markets – all aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

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