The World Green Business Council (WorldGBC) launched its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, in September with 38 founding signatories.
Buildings are responsible for 39 per cent of global carbon emissions. The commitment is to reduce this to zero per cent by 2050.
Signatories can determine their own roadmap towards decarbonising all energy related Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions—that is, direct emissions from owned or controlled sources and indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy respectively.
Signatories can also choose to incorporate broader scope or impact areas, for example embodied carbon or transport emissions, to further push the market forward.
Building owners, developers and operators will need to carefully examine current energy use and the resulting emissions across portfolios; identify opportunities to reduce energy wastage and improve energy efficiency; power buildings from renewable energy sources; and report on progress against their own decarbonisation targets. Progress is tracked through standards, including available green building certification tools, to verify the carbon footprint of a building assets and portfolios.
The second key takeaway message is the critical role of collaboration, and the recognition that one business or pioneering government cannot achieve change alone. In order to do so, the private and public sector must support one another to develop a compelling case for others to follow.
To realise the full potential of this climate action and to ensure they drive genuine change, businesses and governments must be held accountable for the changes our planet so desperately needs.
Australian companies, for example, represent a significant number of the founding Commitment signatories. Five local businesses, the City of Sydney and most recently, Sydney Opera House, are all committed to their own portfolios to operate at net zero carbon by 2030, and to enable wider market transformation towards 100 per cent net zero carbon buildings by 2050. All will be supported by GBCA to develop innovative strategies to achieve their performance targets, through collaboration of private and public sector.
Finally, the success of this initiative will be dependent on industry innovation to develop and sustain genuine solutions to achieving net zero carbon buildings at scale.
Industry must step up to enable wider uptake of net zero carbon buildings: We know they are achievable, and we know it must happen in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
The Commitment is not prescriptive on how an organisation or government would achieve zero emissions in their buildings; but sets the leadership position, intent and outcomes to be achieved. This will foster innovation, cross-sectoral knowledge exchange and partnerships across institutions to support and innovate in an unprecedented way. Together, we can overcome the technical, financial and perceptual challenges preventing mass uptake of net zero carbon buildings and reap the rewards including job creation and boosting economies.
Photo: An aerial view of Sydney’s waterfront district. The City of Sydney and the Sydney Opera House are committed to operating at net zero carbon by 2030.