The real estate road from COP28 to COP29

February 18, 2024

The real estate sector needs to adapt to climate change impacts

The real estate road from COP28 to COP29


he United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP29, is expected to convene in November. Goals for COP29 are anticipated to include concrete commitments to reduce emissions; financial pledges to support climate action in vulnerable regions; and collaborative initiatives that can accelerate the transition to a sustainable and low-carbon global economy. Given the evolving nature of global climate negotiations and the specifics of the climate context in the lead-up to COP29, the agenda and outcomes of the conference would be shaped by the most pressing climate issues and the collective will of the parties to address them.

The developments in COP28 have highlighted the urgent need for the real estate sector worldwide, including in countries like Pakistan, to accelerate progress towards sustainability and adapt to climate change impacts. The emphasis was on de-carbonisation in the real estate sector, which has been a topic of discussion for several years.

In the UK, for example, de-carbonising public buildings is expected to cost £25-30 billion, according to government figures. The European Commission estimates that 70 percent of existing buildings need to be retrofitted to meet carbon reduction goals. These concerns underscore the need for real estate sectors in developing countries like Pakistan to also transition towards cleaner fuels, reduce consumption and invest in sustainable infrastructure to achieve net-zero emissions goals.

COP28 had also focused on the impact of farming and agriculture on climate change, highlighting the importance of aligning the food industry and farming with global warming caps. This has direct implications for countries like Pakistan, where agriculture is a significant part of the economy and where sustainable land use and farming practices can play a vital role in both adaptation and mitigation efforts. The conference highlighted the challenges of greenwashing in the real estate sector and the importance of transparent, accountable practices that align with genuine net-zero goals. This is particularly relevant for Pakistan, which is experiencing severe climate impacts such as floods and urban heat islands, necessitating a rapid and authentic transition to sustainable real estate practices.

While specific impacts of COP28 on Pakistan’s real estate sector have yet to emerge, the global shift towards sustainability, climate resilience and financial mechanisms for addressing climate change impacts are highly relevant for Pakistan. These developments call for accelerated actions in sustainable real estate practices, investment in resilient infrastructure and adoption of nature-based solutions to ensure the sector’s long-term viability and contribute to broader climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.

For COP29, Pakistan’s real estate sector should focus on key areas to enhance sustainability and resilience in response to climate change, drawing lessons from previous meetings and anticipating future trends and commitments. Aligning Pakistan’s real estate sector with the goals of COP28 to prepare for COP29 involves implementing and enforcing stricter building codes that prioritise energy efficiency, encouraging the retrofitting of existing buildings with energy-efficient technologies such as improved insulation, energy-efficient windows and LED lighting and promoting the integration of renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines into new and existing buildings.

By embracing green building practices, renewable energy and efficient resource use, the country must set a foundation for a more sustainable and resilient urban future

Encouraging the use of sustainable, locally sourced building materials that reduce environmental impact, adopting green construction practices that minimise waste and reduce carbon emissions during the construction process and implementing systems for rainwater harvesting and efficient water use to mitigate water scarcity issues are also key. Fostering urban planning that incorporates green spaces, promotes biodiversity and reduces heat island effects, designing real estate developments with access to public transportation and infrastructure for non-motorised transport to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and integrating waste management solutions that promote recycling and reduce landfill use are essential.

Climate risk assessments must be conducted for new developments to ensure resilience against extreme weather events, incorporating adaptive design features that allow buildings and infrastructure to withstand changing climate conditions over time, developing green financing mechanisms that provide incentives for investments in sustainable real estate projects and offering tax rebates, grants, or subsidies for projects that meet certain sustainability benchmarks can support these initiatives. These comprehensive approaches require concerted efforts from government bodies, the private sector, non-governmental organisations and the public, along with international support and knowledge exchange, to ensure that Pakistan’s real estate sector contributes effectively to the global fight against climate change and aligns with the objectives of COP28.

Notable initiatives and projects demonstrate Pakistan’s growing commitment to integrating sustainable practices and renewable energy solutions into its urban development. The Pakistan Green Building Council (PakGBC) is actively working to promote sustainable construction practices across the country. Projects certified by PakGBC or aiming for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification incorporate various eco-friendly features, such as efficient water use, energy-saving and the use of sustainable building materials.

One pioneering example is the Centaurus Mall and Residencia in Islamabad, which has received LEED Gold certification for its sustainable design and energy-efficient features, including solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems and efficient waste management practices. The Emporium Mall in Lahore has also achieved LEED certification by incorporating energy-efficient lighting and water-conserving fixtures.

Beyond individual projects, there is a broad movement towards energy efficiency, water conservation and the use of green building materials. The government is supporting this transition through incentives for green certifications and energy-efficient technologies, aligning with the growing consumer demand for sustainable living spaces.

The adoption of resilient architectural practices is increasingly recognised as necessary for mitigating the impacts of climate change and ensuring the long-term viability of development. Projects like the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi incorporate advanced seismic engineering to enhance earthquake resilience while the Zero-Water Factory in Sheikhupura operates without drawing water from the municipal supply, showcasing innovative water management strategies. The Arfa Software Technology Park in Lahore is an example of sustainable commercial real estate development. It features an energy-efficient design and has been equipped with green technologies to reduce its environmental footprint. The park serves as a model for sustainable architectural design in Pakistan’s IT and software industry.

While these examples reflect a significant shift towards sustainable and resilient real estate development in Pakistan, there is much more to be achieved to prepare for COP29. By embracing green building practices, renewable energy and efficient resource use, the country must set a foundation for a more sustainable and resilient urban future. This ongoing transition will not only address environmental and climatic challenges but also offer economic benefits and improved quality of life for the residents, pointing towards a greener, more sustainable path for Pakistan’s real estate sector.

The writer is the CEO at ZAKCasa and Verde as well as a managing partner at a law firm, namely Lex Mercatoria.

The real estate road from COP28 to COP29