Last month I attended the second annual conference of the Livery Climate Action Group (LCAG) which was launched in March 2021 in response to the City of London’s Corporation’s climate action strategy. I also attended the first annual conference in 2022 after which I published a blog on the subject.[i]
This year's conference emphasised the urgent need to take action. It covered in considerable detail the sources of emissions and showed how most of the public misunderstand these. For example, 40% of carbon emissions come from real estate. By 2030 all commercial buildings must have an energy performance certificate EPC, however we were told that these are often highly inaccurate.
Colin Hutchinson, CEO of Elioth by Egis, made an interesting presentation asking what London can learn from other cities. He concentrated on Paris which aims for carbon neutrality by 2050. They're looking to reduce gross emissions by 70%,65% of those in construction and 85% of passenger transport. This focus on construction and transport will lead to an increase in teleworking. Paris has the largest carbon sink in Europe, largely owing to excessive use of concrete. No building permit will be issued in future without a detailed carbon analysis both of the use of energy and embodied energy in the construction.
Tom Willcock, Director of Hollis, talked on the fundamentals of the future; time to act. He said there should be a carbon clause in every contract and noted that there was no such clause in the trade deal negotiated with Australia by Liz Truss. He thought the public had a distorted view of carbon emissions thinking the biggest problem was in transport when 40% of emissions come from buildings and 30% from food production and distribution. 1 kg of chicken has 5kg of carbon emissions while 1 kg of beef has 25kg of carbon emissions.
Bekir Andrews of Wates Group, Jon Moorhouse of Constructive Thinking Studio and Tim Freeman of Energy Specifics made a joint presentation on decarbonising public and private buildings through retrofit. By April of this year an EPC was a legal requirement for all rented commercial property. A rating of Band E or better had to be achieved with fines for landlords of up to £150,000 for failure to achieve this. Interestingly they showed that they had conducted a LIDAR scan of Merchant Taylor’s Hall where the conference was being held and this demonstrated aspects of the building like heat spots. They explained the six-step process of retrofit and the importance of linking the plan of retrofit to the plan of maintenance.
Matt Wallace of Schneider Electric talked on buildings of the future, leveraging digital solutions for enhanced energy, efficiency and sustainability. He explained that a short-term energy crisis was a long-term climate crisis. 80% of today’s buildings will still be in use in 2050. We need to replace the energy supply and tackle energy demand. Over 40% of energy in commercial buildings is wasted. There is a similar waste of space particularly since the pandemic. We need streamlined data and operational efficiency. The answers are there with lots of benefits.
The keynote speaker was Emma Howard Boyd CBE, Chair of the Green Finance Institute and Chairman of the London Climate Resilience Board reporting to the Mayor, Sadiq Khan. She was concerned that climate change had a disproportionate effect on the disadvantaged. Climate change was a reality and was already here. Around the world there were numerous examples of fires and floods. However, there were positive examples of successful actions of mitigation. In Bangladesh, for example, cyclones used to kill in the thousands. Now only a few lose their lives owing to a number of pragmatic measures like early warning systems. Sadly, Emma believes the UK has lost its previous leadership in the fight against climate change.
The best presentation was by Peter Gladwin, founder of Party Ingredients, one of the leading catering companies working with Livery companies. He is also a restaurateur, a farmer, a wine producer and an expert on food sustainability. As already pointed out food is responsible for nearly 30% of global emissions. The biggest part of this is meat, but of course historically agriculture has destroyed great areas of forest which used to absorb the carbon. Only 12% of the UK is still covered by forest.
Peter advised us, both as Livery companies and as individuals, to emphasise seasonality, not least because food tastes better in season. We should avoid airmiles and know where our food comes from. We should support British based farmers and growers in their food stewardship of the land. We should encourage biodiversity.
Two years ago the Master of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries decided that all dinners that year would be plant based. Her successor has not gone that far but has put plant-based meals as the main printed version but offered an omnivore option. I think that Peter is realistic enough to know that not many Livery companies are going to take red meat off the menu but if we still have it we should ensure that it comes from sources where animal husbandry is of a high standard and perhaps our menu could be plant led with a slice of meat on the side.
Increasingly wines are being produced in more sustainable ways. We are unlikely to see the glass bottle disappear particularly of those wines we store for some time, but organic and other sustainable practices are growing in use.
Peter further encouraged us to demand fresh, local produce from sustainable sources. To challenge diners to enjoy it. To spread the word. To avoid excess packaging. To buy direct from producers and support farmers’ markets. We should demand a recycling programme and reduce food waste. 40% of all food in the UK is wasted. Some never gets off the farm or out of the orchard because supermarkets insist on perfect looking fruit and vegetables. Some gets thrown away as it’s not sold after its best before date even though it’s still OK to eat. That also applies to food that is bought but not consumed or is left on the plate. And then there is the mass of food waste in restaurants, schools and many other establishments.
Overall, I found this a challenging and informative conference with an even greater sense of urgency than last year. Not enough is being done but there are people who know what needs doing and how to do it.