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Knight Frank has appointed Jackie Cheung to director of ESG for Asia-Pacific.

In his new role, Cheung will be responsible for leading Knight Frank’s ESG efforts in the region, providing advisory services to clients and integrating ESG considerations into internal decision-making. He will be based in Singapore.

Cheung joined Knight Frank in Hong Kong in 2022 as associate director and head of ESG for Greater China.

Tim Armstrong, global head of occupier strategy and solutions at Knight Frank, said: “Integrating ESG factors into portfolio planning is no longer optional but a strategic imperative, and we are committed to serving as a trusted ESG advisor for our clients.”

A new industry taskforce has been launched to develop a carbon pricing strategy for real estate.

Led by the Urban Land Institute, as part of its C Change programme, the initiative brings together seven European and global real estate industry associations: EPRA (the European Public Real Estate Association), GREEN (Global Real Estate Engagement Network), INREV (the European Association for Investors in Non-Listed Real Estate Vehicles), IIGCC (the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change), RICS (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), and WBCSD (the World Business Council for Sustainable Development).

Lisette van Doorn, CEO, ULI Europe, said: “While an important tool to help build the business case for low carbon solutions, a recent ULI C Change survey demonstrated that internal carbon pricing is still a ‘minority activity’ in the built environment. Lack of knowledge and consistent data, including financial and educational, were identified as the main barriers to implementation. That’s why education will play an important role in this programme.”

As part of the carbon pricing strategy programme, a series of workshops will be organised in May aimed at understanding and implementing internal carbon pricing. The programme will comprise two streams, one aimed at experts and those already implementing carbon pricing, and one for those yet to implement an internal carbon price who are keen to learn more.

Hassan Sabir, finance & ESG director, EPRA, said: “Collaborating with all actors across the entire value chain of the real estate industry to introduce a carbon pricing as a mechanism for lowering emissions of buildings may prove to be one of our biggest opportunities.”

Hugh Garnett, investor practices senior programme manager - real assets, IIGCC, said: “IIGCC is pleased to contribute to this important collaborative initiative looking to address a complex gap in the market and promote adoption of carbon pricing for real estate investors. The development of an industry wide approach to carbon pricing will assist investors to manage climate-related risk and drive investment into sustainable buildings to decarbonise the real estate sector.”

Australian real estate investment trust GPT has been criticised for concentrating on ESG at the expense of returns.

David Kingston, founder of activist investor K Capital, told the REIT’s annual general meeting that GPT was too “too woke” and failing to deliver returns, Australian media reported.

He said: “REITs are meant to deliver income plus capital growth. The total shareholder return in property, if well-chosen and well-run, should be around 10%. GPT’s TSR over the last five years has averaged 4%, a big failure to deliver.”

Kingston said it was a concern that the annual report had so many references to non-commercial objectives and cited the REIT’s declaration on modern slavery as a particularly egregious example of unnecessary ESG reporting. 

GPT chair Vikki McFadden conceded that the group’s growth had not “been to the level that we would like to see,” which she claimed was for a “variety of reasons”. However, she denied the REIT was “too woke”.

She said: “There is, within the group, an understanding, and it’s embedded in the way we think, that we will have high regard to the sustainability and other social and governance requirements that are expected of a group to operate. But that has to be in the context of profitable sustainable growth which produces the right return on capital.”

GPT was the second placed REIT in the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment 2024 Yearbook and says it has reduced its carbon emissions intensity by 91% since 2005. However, it has underperformed the ASX-200 AREIT Index over the past five years.

The REIT has more than A$30 billion ($20 billion) of property assets under management, including 530 Collins Street, a Melbourne office building, pictured above.

Coima has bought a portfolio of Rome office buildings, with the intention to boost their sustainability.

The Italian investment manager has acquired a fund which owns three government-occupied buildings: Palazzo Verospi and Galleria Sciarra (pictured above), both in the Via Del Corso area and Palazzo Monte in the Campo de' Fiori area. The 484,375 sq ft portfolio has a total value of more than €200 million ($215 million), Coima said.

It will implement an asset management strategy aimed at improving the energy efficiency of the buildings, reducing their carbon footprint, and securing BREEAM certifications.

Coima is also seeking to convert the fund to Article 8 status under the European Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulations (SFDR), designating it as a fund to promote positive social and environmental outcomes.

The acquisition was made through COIMA’s Core Fund I and Core Fund II, which are backed by Italian institutional investors and focus on the acquisition and management of income-producing properties in major Italian cities.

The transaction was supported by the issuance of a green loan from pool of banking institutions consisting of Credit Agricole, BPER and ING.

Gabriele Bonfiglioli, COIMA's chief investment officer, said: “COIMA is honoured to take on the management of these important and historic buildings in the heart of Rome, with the aim of improving their sustainability performance and ensuring they remain fit for the future. Rome is a strategically important market for COIMA and a city with great potential for urban redevelopment projects focusing on driving positive social and environmental impact.”

Colliers Netherlands has appointed Robin Swane as head of ESG.

He joins from technical consulting firm Encon and has more than 15 years of experience in consultancy in the built environment. He is also a former golf professional, playing seven years on the European Challenge Tour.

"I look forward to working with Robin and the team to take the next step in helping our clients with their EGS issues," said Joost Vooijs, director asset services. "With our ambitious plans and the increasing complexity in sustainability legislation, his knowledge and experience is very welcome."

The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Europe has teamed up with sustainability analytics specialist Synergetic to create a new tool for integrating climate transition into the financial models for real estate.

The free-to-use ULI Preserve tool will be developed in collaboration with Mott MacDonald and CBRE UK Valuations Advisory as part of the ULI's C Change initiative. 

It will enable real estate companies to quantify the financial impacts of the opportunities and risks associated with the net zero transition. This would allow for risks, such as future energy costs and demands, potential rent movements, carbon pricing and capital expenditure, to be integrated into investment decision making.

Sophie Chick, vice president, ULI Europe, said: “There is a lack of consistency in the way that transition risks and opportunities are being integrated into business plans across the industry. The Preserve tool aims to create a level playing field for all, helping to facilitate and champion the wide adoption of transition risk assessments across all players and avoid the risk of any disadvantages. We see Preserve as providing an essential resource for everyone to implement the transition risk guidelines in a practical way.”  

Knight Frank has announced its Science Based Targets initiative-approved net zero pathway.

The London-based broker has committed to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greehouse gas emissions by 42% by 2030 from a base year of 2022. It has also committed to reducing scope 3 emissions from use of client assets under property management by 51.6% per sq ft and from investments under management by 51.6% per sq m within the same timeframe.

By 2040, Knight Frank has committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and 2 emissions 90% and to reduce scope 3 emissions from use of client assets under property management by 97% per sq ft and to reducing scope 3 GHG emissions from investments under management by 97% per sq m under management.

Sarah Beattie, partner and head of corporate ESG strategy at Knight Frank, said: “Setting key targets for reducing carbon emissions is central to our focus on restoring the natural environment, one of the principal areas for action in our ESG ambition. 

“Through our position on the front line of commercial relationships, we can make a real difference for our industry as a whole. So, we’re delighted to get the stamp of approval from SBTi.”

Clarion Housing Group has announced a new sustainable finance framework.

The UK housing association said the new framework aligns with the International Capital Markets Association principles on green, social and sustainable bonds, and the Loan Markets Association green and social loan principles.

Under the framework, Clarion will use proceeds raised from financing to invest in environmentally and/or socially impactful project. It is also set to publish a climate transition plan this year.

Earlier this month, Clarion agreed a new £150 million sustainability-linked facility with ABN AMRO Bank. It said the loan had a series of KPIs linked to its sustainability strategy and climate transition plan. Interest rate savings incurred by meeting KPIs will be used to support its charitable foundation.

Rutilio Merien, ABN AMRO’s head of UK coverage real estate, said: “The UK social housing sector faces challenges that go to the heart of society in terms of availability, quality and safety as well as reducing carbon footprint. ABN AMRO is proud to be able to play an active role in supporting Clarion and the sector.”

Clarion is the UK’s largest housing association, with 125,000 homes and an in-house development business, Latimer. New projects include a low-rise ‘garden community’ in Ealing, London (pictured above).

A new roadmap has been created to help Hong Kong on the path to net zero.

The city’s government has set a target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and has also committed to halve total carbon emissions by 2035, from 2005 levels.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (Austcham), supported by Savills as knowledge partner, has produced a roadmap for the city to drive decarbonisation of the city by 2050. Input for the roadmap was gathered from industry, government and bodies such as the Hong Kong Green Building Council (HKGBC) and Business Environment Council.

Sam Crispin, sustainability and ESG lead at Savills Asia Pacific, said the real estate industry and asset owners will be crucial partners in ensuring that Hong Kong meets its decarbonisation targets.

“The built environment accounts for 90% of electricity consumption in Hong Kong. Our decarbonisation road map sets out the key steps that cross industry collaboration can address. This is not the sole responsibility of regulators and organisations, every one of us has a role to play.”

While the challenge of decarbonisation is enormous, the Savills report found that strong foundations have been laid and the Hong Kong building and construction industry already has most of the key elements needed to decarbonise.

However, Dr Cary Chan, executive director of the HKGBC, noted that “existing building sustainability initiatives only cover a small portion of the city’s energy consumption, with the majority of smaller developers yet to adopt sustainable practices”.

Key challenges include bringing decarbonisation to the forefront of the mainstream business agenda, encouraging retrofitting, increasing data transparency, increasing green certification of existing buildings, improving education and boosting capital allocation to sustainable investments.

A version of this story was previously published in Prospects and the roadmap can be found here.

Hines has agreed to forward fund a 519-unit net zero residential scheme in Newcastle, UK.

The Houston-based developer and investor’s Hines European Property Partners (HEPP) fund will fund the multifamily residential project, to be delivered by UK developer Olympian Homes.

Hines said 325,000 sq ft scheme will be all-electric, powered by geothermal heat pumps and on-site solar PV making it net-zero enabled from day one.

The project, named Pottery Lane, will be delivered in two phases: an 11-storey block, comprising 292 units, will be completed in Q4 2026 and a second six-storey, 227-home block is due for delivery in 2027. 

Alongside a mix of one and two-bed rental apartments, the scheme will provide around 10,000 sq ft of amenity space including a gym, co-working facilities, two roof terraces and a cinema room.

The scheme is located in the Newcastle’s Forth Yards Regeneration Area and is close to  The Helix, a £350 million tech and life science quarter and Pilgrim Place, a new 400,000 sq ft office-led mixed use project.

Jorge Duarte, senior managing director and fund manager for HEPP, said: “The creation of rental accommodation in areas of high demand and low supply is a high-conviction investment theme for us.

“We believe this ambitious scheme provides a blueprint for how private capital can be deployed to deliver both value for our investors and the high-quality housing supply the UK and Europe so clearly needs.”