As the UN Conference on Biodiversity (COP 15) commences, real estate investors have come together with the Better Buildings Partnership (BBP) and sustainability consultancy Greengage to collaborate on the creation of a commercial real estate framework to implement the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD).
In a built environment context, the connections between nature and climate have never been so evident.
The construction, maintenance and operation of buildings are increasingly vulnerable to climate risks including flooding, urban heat island stress and energy insecurity. The supply chains of real estate owners and their occupiers are dependent on sustainable forestry and agriculture, clean water, soil health and successful pollination of crops. Loss in biodiversity and habitats, exacerbated by climate change, therefore threatens the sector’s ability to manage and adapt to climate risks.
Nature-based solutions, including integrated built-form green infrastructure such as sustainable urban drainage, green urban parks & spaces, green roofs, green walls and rain gardens, can all help to mitigate climate impacts, embed resilience and support biodiversity net gain. As we deepen our understanding of the relationship between the built environment and nature, it is becoming increasingly clear that to deliver and operate buildings that are climate resilient and net zero carbon, it is necessary to focus on nature-related impacts relevant to our businesses.
The UN Biodiversity Conferences receive significantly less global attention than their climate counterparts, despite the deep connections between the climate emergency and global loss of biodiversity:
- The real estate sector is responsible for c.40% of global GHG emissions, and climate change is one of the main drivers of habitat loss and species decline across the world.
- Destruction of ecosystems undermines the planet’s ability to regulate GHG emissions. Many of the planet’s most effective carbon sinks are naturally occurring habitats such as tropical rainforests, salt marshes and peatlands.
- Highly diverse ecosystems are the most resilient to pressures from climate change. In turn, they provide ecosystem services which improve human resilience to climate change, such as natural flood defences.
- It has been evidenced that there are more benefits than trade-offs in addressing climate change and nature loss together within land and marine environments.
The Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – launched in 2017 – has been a major driver of action in measuring and integrating climate risks throughout business operations and investment portfolios. The Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) – currently in beta version and due to publish final recommendations in September 2023 – is now working to drive similar action in the consistency of assessment and disclosure expectations around nature-related risks. While further from being mandatory than TCFD, the Business for Nature coalition is urging the COP15 conference to mandate nature disclosure requirements for business.
Led by BBP members Brookfield Properties and sustainability consultancy Greengage, a group of BBP members comprising abrdn, Canary Wharf Group, GPE, Grosvenor Property UK, Legal and General Investment Management (LIGM) Real Assets and BBP Climate Commitment signatory Hibernia Real Estate Group are coming together to develop commercial real estate industry specific guidance for TNFD-compliant corporate biodiversity reporting and action.
The guidance will be produced through a combination of research work, trial runs of evolving guidance and workshops with relevant industry stakeholders. Feedback from piloting of the guidance will contribute to the wider TNFD pilot feedback process, informing the shape of the final version of the TNFD Framework. The project kicked off in November 2022 and aims to produce a TNFD Preliminary Guidance Note for Real Estate in early 2023, with a final TNFD Guidance Note once the final version of the TNFD Framework is published in late 2023/early 2024.
This work will be complimented by the UK Green Building Council’s ‘Biodiversity and Environmental Net Gain (BNG & ENG)’ and ‘Embodied Ecological Impacts of the Built Environment’ projects. The former aims to assist organisations in taking practical action on BNG and ENG in light of November 2023 UK legislation changes to mandate a 10% biodiversity net gain on all new developments. The second will explore ways in which the built environment impacts nature and ecosystems.
Martin Gettings, Head of ESG for Brookfield’s European real estate business said: “As we all take action to achieve net-zero, it is vital that businesses elevate nature and biodiversity considerations. That is why the TNFD framework is so important, and when businesses collaborate in this way, we not only advance the agenda for more credible disclosures, we can also benefit from a healthier and more rewarding environment.”
Janine Cole, Chair of the BBP and Sustainability and Social Impact Director of GPE said: “With the UK widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries the challenge to address the nature related impacts of the built environment has never been more urgent. Radical collaboration is needed, and we are delighted to be supporting this essential project to translate the TNFD framework into a strategic tool that can be used by real estate businesses to drive the urgent change required.”