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Building Back better – a call for change and revitalisation

  • United Kingdom
  • Real estate
  • Energy and infrastructure


“Building Back Better” was being talked about everywhere even before the PM’s speech to the Conservative party conference this week. It was first heard in 2015 when, at the UN Conference in Sendai, the Japanese delegation used it to describe how disasters can be the catalyst to create more resilient societies with well-balanced disaster risk reduction measures including the revitalization and improvement of the economy, infrastructure and the environment.

As we remain stricken by this global pandemic, “Building Back Better” has become a rallying cry for many key sectors keen to use the COVID–19 crisis as a springboard to ignite change and regeneration. A transition to a “greener economy” is just one example, but it is attracting major focus and gaining powerful momentum.

More than 200 top UK firms and investors have recently called on the government to deliver a COVID-19 recovery plan that prioritises the environment. They argue that all efforts to repair the economy should support the government's commitment to tackle the climate change crisis. Their proposals include:

  • driving investment into low-carbon innovation, infrastructure and industries;
  • focusing support on sectors that can best enhance the environment and achieve de-carbonization, whilst fostering job creation and recovery; and
  • putting conditions on financial support to ensure firms getting bailout cash are well managed and in step with climate goals.

The government’s announcement of ambitious targets for windpower in the UK seems to evidence such commitment and is to be welcomed. However, understanding the current hurdles to financial viability is key, as our Head of Clean Energy and Sustainability, Michelle T. Davies, commented earlier this week in this article - link here.

What is the Energy Transition?

It is a long term structural change in the way we create and use energy into a more frugal and sustainable system, away from fossil-based sources (oil, natural gas and coal) to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. That process of change seems almost inevitable now, but it remains an over simplification to assume that we can simply transition to clean energy supply without keeping some traditional energy provision.

Lots had been achieved before COVID-19, but now potential investors in nearly every sector are trying to assess the likely demand outlook as we look to restart our economy. The direction of travel is clear: 125 countries have net zero as a legal requirement. However, as the former Bank of England governor Mark Carney recently stated “What you don’t want to do is try and jam everything into groups of deep green activity and everything else is brown and bad….. This is a whole economy transition”.

He's right. The UK’s energy provision, now and for the foreseeable future, must be layered and nuanced. Anyone who says this is simple hasn’t read the book.

We can only transition to a greener energy future by using a complex and integrated network of solutions.

How that complex and integrated system can be developed and delivered sits at the heart of all of our work, and real estate has a unique and fundamental part to play in its success.

For more information on the Energy Transition, we have set up The Energy Transition Club which is a cross-sector network of companies interested in developing or using low carbon solutions. Members are able to access knowledge and business opportunities as the new energy landscape shapes up. For more information, please see our page - link here.