The time to act for the built environment is now
11th October 2021 by Emma Goring
The World Green Building Council has beefed up requirements for property and construction firms committed to its 2030 net zero buildings challenge.
The World Green Building Council (World GBC) has beefed up requirements for property and construction firms committed to its 2030 net zero buildings challenge, in order to encourage them to take greater account of embodied carbon and the lifecycle impacts of construction materials over the coming decade.
First launched by the World GBC in 2018, the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment calls on construction and property firms to eliminate operational carbon emissions and fossil fuels from their building portfolios by the end of the decade, and to ensure new developments and major renovations are built to be highly efficient and powered by renewables.
A total of 143 signatories have signed up to the challenge to date, including 109 businesses and organizations, 28 cities and six states and regions, altogether accounting for over 5.3 million metric tons of CO2 portfolio emissions worldwide.
However, today the World GBC has unveiled a clutch of new requirements for firms signing up to the Commitment, alongside new guidance setting out best practice for using carbon offsetting in the built environment.
Firstly, signatories must account for the whole lifecycle impacts of new buildings and major renovations in their 2030 net zero goals, in addition to including plans to maximize embodied carbon reductions and compensate for residual upfront emissions via offsets.
Moreover, firms must also “disclose the impact of activities that influence the wider reduction of whole life carbon emissions” in its net zero goals, it explained.
The non-profit said firms looking to deliver net zero buildings by 2030 should look to achieve the maximum possible reduction of embodied carbon in their buildings by 2030, and to only then look to compensate for any residual upfront emissions via offsets by the same date.
Cristina Gamboa, CEO of the World Green Building Council, said the new commitments announced today marked a first for the global buildings and construction industry, and helped to spotlight how the built environment could help to accelerate climate action ahead of COP26 in November.
“The update to the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment elevates the ambition for the building and construction sector to go further and faster to decarbonize,” she explained. “It sets a target for compensating for emissions associated with buildings and construction, and the tangible social and environmental co-benefits of this approach creates a powerful catalyst towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving our vision of sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere, means acting now to tackle upfront carbon whilst planning with whole life carbon in mind.”
The built environment is responsible for around 40 percent of global carbon emissions, with 10 percent coming from embodied carbon from materials and construction processes, according to World GBC. Buildings are also responsible for 36 percent of global energy consumption, 38 per cent of energy-related CO2 and half of resource consumption, which is expected to double by 2060.
The group also today revealed that it is planning to use the COP26 Climate Summit to unleash a “single, coherent” science-based action plan for transforming domestic buildings in support of net zero emission goals.
Ed Mazria, founder and CEO of green campaign Architecture 2030, said it was critical for all actors in the buildings and construction industry worldwide to help limit global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“The time to act is now,” he said. “With the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment including both embodied and operational carbon, the organizations, firms and subnational governments responsible for planning, designing, constructing and developing the global built environment can demonstrate their specific actions that meet the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C budget. By showing what is possible, our community will embolden others to do the same.”