Time to act on climate change

Last updated: 6th September 2022

We are heading for a storm of global magnitude in terms of climate change. It was recently reported that one third of Pakistan, which contributes less than 1% of global greenhouse gases, is under water as a result of climate change. This awful catastrophe has already killed over a thousand people. But there will be further deaths due to disease arising from poor sanitation and poor nutrition. Scientists are saying this is caused by climate change. Glaciers in Pakistan's Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions are melting rapidly, creating more than 3,000 lakes, the UN Development Programme told BBC News recently, and the monsoons are becoming more intense due to global increases in air and sea temperatures. 

Meanwhile, a drought in the horn of Africa has put 22 million people at risk of starvation, destroying crops and displacing people. The invasion of Ukraine has also exacerbated these problems, sending the cost of gas and crops rocketing. Here in the UK schools, businesses and hospitals are facing unsustainable rises in energy prices and many individuals are forced to make decisions about whether to heat or eat.

These shocking and heart-breaking cases across our news channels must make us act more immediately and forcefully to stop further damage to the environment and the destruction of people’s lives. When we reviewed our education framework in 2018, we knew that sustainability would need to be a central theme and it is. But now I wonder if it should be the only theme based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which enshrine safety, quality of life, access to clean water, shelter, health care and energy and so much more of what is necessary to live a rich and meaningful life. The goals are inspiring and absolutely relevant to our discipline. We need to think about end users and society rather than focussing on the needs of clients and contractors. Everything should be challenged through the lens of the greater imperative. This will also help us to attract a more diverse workforce motivated to make a difference and as the CIOB vision says, to improve the lives of those who create and use the built environment. 

I would urge all lecturers and academic members to make this a priority in all the subjects you teach and if you need materials or further training, the CIOB is here to help. We have a number of courses that are free to members and very reasonably priced to non-members on sustainable construction and this includes a course on the sustainable development goals. See our Academy website for more details. 

Finally, many people I speak to tell me that they came into the industry to make a difference and leave a legacy. There can be no greater legacy than leaving behind a better, safer world.