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For those in doubt, time has run out – statement on the IPCC report

Dr Christine Lemaitre

What we’re hearing isn’t surprising – sadly – but that doesn’t make it any less shocking or, above all, any less significant: the Sixth Assessment Report on the world climate puts an end to the era of climate change denial. To maintain tolerable levels of life on Earth, decisive action is required now. The only real option available to us is to systematically cut carbon emissions. This is where action is called for across the entire building sector – and time is running out.

There is some good news, so let’s start on a positive note: if we succeed in cutting carbon emissions across the board, we can shift into action under the most positive scenario of the IPCC report. For this to happen, a clear stance needs to be taken in all sectors of industry, underpinned by concerted, decisive action. When it comes to buildings, this applies to stakeholders in all sectors: industrial enterprises, manufacturers, building owners, the operators of buildings, investors, planners and property developers.

What is the world worth to us?

Anyone who has been applying a bit of common sense – and has considered the facts with all honesty – will not be too surprised by the forecasts of doom and gloom. Despite this, the report does play a crucial role in laying clear facts on the table. And when things are staring back at you in black and white, it can no longer be argued they’re not there. For those in doubt, time has run out. Sustainability can no longer be considered a matter of choice. And the question of whether climate protection is worth all the effort was answered a long time ago.

No more time for philosophising

There’s another factor that makes all of this clearer than it has ever been: we can’t keep putting off taking action until tomorrow. Realistic planning leaves no place for philosophising, simply hoping or making vacuous marketing statements. The time has come when concrete action is required so we can assess what impact this has and if necessary do things better – systematically, transparently and based on the facts on hand.

Construction based on concrete action

We offer all the know-how, knowledge and instruments it takes to do this. We’re in a position to construct buildings that produce more energy than they consume – i.e. buildings that are climate-positive. We know how to save resources and thus also cut carbon emissions in ways that enhance and preserve existing buildings. So there’s no need to hope that some innovative technological solution will come along. We should believe more in our own ability to make a difference. Straightforward building – without lots of technology – isn’t actually as difficult as some might think and often it’s the most climate-friendly option.

The essence of the DGNB

The DGNB is not an organisation bent on making grand political statements. Instead, its focus lies in concrete action. Launched in 2020, our Climate Positive Cities and Communities initiative has already welcomed 36 cities on board. These are already busily looking into potential areas of action. For our Phase Sustainability initiative, architects are making a commitment to discuss sustainability issues with their clients. I find it motivating to work with so many dedicated people – people who are willing to take responsibility for the future.

I say this because there’s one thing we can be sure of: doing nothing means changing nothing. Currently, we can’t say for certain whether we’ll succeed in mastering all of the huge challenges we face, but not giving it a proper try has to be out of the question. As a result, let’s hope this latest status report will motivate all of us to do more together and become more pragmatic in our approach. So that instead of continuously reacting to what’s happening, we finally start taking broad-scale action and actually do something.

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Dr. Christine Lemaitre was born in Gießen, Germany in 1975 and studied structural engineering at the University of Stuttgart from 1995 to 2000. After working in the USA for two years as structural engineer, she started in 2003 working at the Institute of Lightweight Structures Design and Construction at the University of Stuttgart as a research and teaching assistant. In 2007, she started as a project manager for R&D at Bilfinger Berger AG in the area of resource efficient buildings. She completed her phd thesis on adaptive lightweight structures in 2008. In January 2009 she took on the role as director certification system of the German Sustainable Building Council. Since February 2010 Dr. Christine Lemaitre is the CEO of the German Sustainable Building Council. Since 2013 she is member of the board of directors of the Sustainable Building Alliance. From 2015 until June 2019 she was Chair of the European Regional Network (ERN) of the World Green Building Council. Since 2016 she is board member of the World Green Building Council (WGBC).

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