What is in the Government’s Property Sustainability Strategy?

EXCLUSIVE: The UK Government’s chief property officer, Mark Chivers, outlines the aims of a new Government Property Sustainability Strategy, published on Tuesday (15 November), which focuses on decarbonisation, adaptation and natural capital.

What is in the Government’s Property Sustainability Strategy?

Mark Chivers writes an exclusive opinion piece for edie

The UK Government manages a property portfolio which is – by some distance – the biggest and most diverse set of assets in the country. More than 130,000 buildings, covering prisons and courts, schools and museums, hospitals and health surgeries, job centres, military bases, administrative offices, and many more, spread all around the UK.

Moreover, the government owns significant land holdings, which provide enormous potential for driving up natural capital and improving the environment around us.

Combine this fact with the knowledge that the built environment is a significant contributor to overall emissions, and our task becomes clear: if the UK is to hit our goals in regards to climate change and sustainability then property, and government property in particular, has a huge role to play.

Government must work to adapt our estate to the impacts of climate change, on increasing biodiversity and on making best use of our resources, driving forward this vital work across the UK.

In the summer, we published our new Government Property Strategy. That report makes a clear commitment to create a smaller, better, and greener public estate. Building on that, and to ensure we can achieve the greener element of that commitment, we are now publishing the first Government Property Sustainability Strategy.

We’ll do this by delivering on four main themes of work:

  • We’ll work to decarbonise the estate. We are working with every Government Department to support them in developing, improving, and implementing their plans to contribute to the UK’s net zero target, as well as integrating with and complementing wider government policies such as the Transforming Infrastructure Programme, delivered by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, and its work on reducing embodied carbon.
  • We will also make sure we adapt our estate so that it is more resilient to the impacts of climate change. With help from our partners in the sector, we have developed guidance and standards and we are now working to develop and embed these across the government estate, aligned with the existing National Adaptation Programme
  • There will be an increased focus on natural capital, and driving improvements on and around the estate. We are already working with our colleagues in Defra to agree a consistent approach to Nature Recovery Plans and support work to understand the high-level natural capital landscape for the government estate
  • We have also got to do better with the precious resources that we have, and have therefore redoubled efforts on resource efficiency, aiming to minimise waste and make the best use of our assets and resources.

The strategy we have published sets out the actions we’re going to take to reach these goals. It sets out how we’re going to work with our colleagues across government to collaborate more, to improve our work and to share best practice.

I believe it provides a route to make the public estate greener, more resilient and more sustainable. Moreover, the strategy will help us achieve the existing Greening Government Commitments, alongside our ambition  to reduce direct emissions from public sector buildings by at least 50% by 2032.

Mark Chivers is the UK Government’s chief property officer

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