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Ōtautahi – There is widespread support for a more collaborative approach to achieving net zero for cities and New Zealand cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch need to acting faster and smarter.

Strong partnerships between city governments, real estate occupiers and investors are instrumental to driving the net-zero carbon agenda.

A more collaborative business model will require a change in mindset among many city administrations, which should see real estate owners, developers, investors and occupiers as long-term partners to achieve environment goals.

Buildings account for 40 percent of carbon emissions. So real estate investors, developers and occupiers have a key role to play in the race to net zero.

Yet re-purposing existing old buildings, machinery and materials is an expensive game, involving thousands of suppliers, incentivised by low-cost solutions as opposed to low-impact solutions.

As the world tackles the decarbonisation challenge, an ecosystem of partnerships needs to emerge between – property owners, investors and corporate occupiers, and national and city governments, academic institutions, employee groups and community organisations – to work together towards common sustainable targets.

Real estate must become more liveable, sustainable and affordable.

JLL, a world leader in real estate services, recently surveyed nearly 1000 real estate occupiers and investors worldwide to gauge levels of industry commitment and to explore the barriers they are facing in their decarbonisation journey.

Plenty of organisations have set carbon reduction targets but these are not necessarily aligned. In fact, more than 80 percent of the JLL survey respondents agreed a strong partnership between city governments, real estate occupiers and investors is vital to driving the net-zero carbon agenda.

There is strong potential to leverage the intelligence, skills, innovations and financial acumen of the real estate sector to achieve environmental goals. More cities are spearheading collaborative initiatives.

Expectations are high among both real estate investors and occupiers about the role city governments should be playing to drive the decarbonisation agenda.

Some cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Copenhagen and Melbourne are noticeably acting, but there is a sense that administrations more broadly are not doing enough.

The JLL survey shows that only 29 percent of respondents strongly agree top-tier cities are taking sufficiently bold action to mitigate climate risk.

New buildings alone will not solve the issue. Fifty percent of the world’s raw material consumption is in the development of buildings. Retrofitting existing building stock to net-zero carbon is central to decarbonising the city’s economy.

Of the almost 40 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions that stem from the built environment, 11 percent comes from embodied carbon.

The retrofitting challenge for cities is huge but, encouragingly, in speaking with a number of leading investors, there is an understanding of the tremendous potential in unlocking the retrofit challenge. City councils need to be integral to building this momentum.

A key enabler in driving the transition to net zero is technology. But it can’t solve everything: people need to first embrace it.

Data is the single biggest catalyst for green progress, as enhanced data capabilities provide opportunities for continuous improvement based on real-time analytics and automated decision-making.