How property can play a huge role in making next year’s EarthOvershoot Day later in the year

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has used all the biological resources that Earth regenerates during the entire year.

As today marks Earth Overshoot Day this means we have already depleted the planet’s resource budget and would need 1.75 Earths to meet our demand. Therefore, significant changes are necessary in order to prevent irreversible damage and help move back Earth Overshoot date in the future.

Cities play a huge role in contributing to when Earth Overshoot Day occurs, and as 70-80% of all people are expected to live in urban areas by 2050, this impact will continue to worsen. Therefore, the property industry has a significant role to play in meeting our planet’s resource budget. Properties need to be built and retrofitted to reduce our reliance and demand on fossil fuels. Decarbonising our cities is our greatest chance of preventing our planet reaching a ‘tipping point’ in which irreversible damage has occurred. If we collectively reduced humanity’s ecological footprint by 50% it would move Earth’s overshoot day back by 93 days! 

There are solutions and innovations aimed towards the built environment which can help achieve this;  for example, low-carbon heating sources (e.g. heat pumps), renewable energy sources (e.g. solar PV) and EV charging points, to support the uptake of EV usage.

In addition, changes in behaviour and improvements in energy efficiency can also contribute towards a reduction in fossil fuel demand. This can be achieved through greater insulation of buildings or the adoption of more efficient technologies (such as energy efficient LED lighting or highly-efficient combi boilers).

All stakeholders in property have a role to play – as an owner or renter of homes the way you interact with property is key from simple activities such as not leaving on utilities or appliances unnecessarily to fixing draughts and retrofitting sustainable insulation, windows, doors.

As a landlord, investment in retrofitting is not just a responsible thing to do, it’s a legal requirement in order to allow property to be utilised and transacted with forthcoming EPC targets coming down the line.

Developers probably have the easiest job in terms of building new properties as sustainable features can be included early on with ground source heat pumps, EV charging points and Solar PV amongst many features that are much easier to instil new. However, developers must also be mindful of embodied carbon as part of the construction and/or fit out process as this is not measured effectively in the mainstream yet and also makes a huge difference.

And finally, the public and private sector must work together to find a way to finance the upgrade of the swathes of poor, publicly owned housing stock so that affordable or social housing is not left behind in the race to net zero but also people are not left homeless in the meantime.

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Niall Keighron

Sustainability & environmental practitioner

T +44 (0) 20 7408 1010