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Race to Zero

We have about a decade to halve global greenhouse gas emissions and prevent global warming of more than 1.5°C. Beyond this threshold, scientists warn of dangerous and perhaps irrevocable changes to climate and the environment. In other words, the global economy will have to be transformed in two business cycles, bringing itself in line with the 2016 Paris Agreement, COP21.

Some of the technology solutions that will be required are already in use. In the buildings sector, for instance, where 40% of global carbon emissions originate, there is a drive to build cleaner, more sustainable structures that operate more efficiently. In the UK, the Green Buildings Council (GBC) has announced that all its members will take immediate action on climate change as part of the UNFCCC-backed Race to Zero campaign.

Race to Zero is, according to their website,

A global campaign to rally climate leadership from non-state actors – i.e. businesses, cities, regions, universities and investors – for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth.[1]

We have noted already that investors in the Build to Rent space are moving towards ESG investing, with greater emphasis than before on the sustainability of materials, building practices and facilities management. And we have noted that progressive banks are offering more green loans to kickstart sustainable projects in the sector. But this is a unique drive for private and public sector organizations to lead by example and encourage government to follow.

Members are encouraged to cut emissions in half by 2030 and commit to becoming net zero as soon as possible (the legislative deadline in Scotland being 2045) and sign up to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. This earlier initiative, promoted by the World Green Building Council, challenges signatories to “reach net zero carbon in operation for all assets under their direct control by 2030, and to advocate for all buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050.”[2]

The Commitment is set out in 5 stages. First, all buildings under direct control must be net zero by 2030. Then, in order, organizations must commit to:

  • Measure, disclose and assess annual asset and portfolio energy demand and carbon emissions.
  • Develop and implement a decarbonisation roadmap outlining key actions and milestones.
  • Demonstrate enhanced energy performance, reduced carbon emissions and progress towards net zero carbon assets and portfolio.

And finally:

  • Demonstrate leadership to support the wider transition towards net zero carbon buildings.

There are now 6,000 assets covered by the agreement, meaning approximately 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 (tCO2e) will be eliminated by 2030, when the assets reach net zero.

This year the UK will host COP 26, a European Climate Ambition Summit. But even to achieve the minimum-acceptable goals of the earlier COP 21, the Paris Agreement, businesses will have to take advantage of renewables. And as EP100 points out, “the global transition to clean power needs to progress four times faster than at present.”[3] It should be some consolation that we are already seeing the positive impact of that transition and the emergence of frameworks to accelerate progress.

[1] https://unfccc.int/climate-action/race-to-zero-campaign

[2] http://www.worldgbc.org/thecommitment

[3] https://www.theclimategroup.org/our-work/events/cop26-european-climate-ambition-summit

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