News article

Towards 'Net Zero': A direction for the built environment

Building Automation
08 February 2021

Net Zero goals are achievable - but only if we all move towards greater accountability and routine progress reports.

Establishing ambitious goals for decarbonization is one thing – but making sure we are on track to achieve them is quite another. The Advancing Net Zero initiative - which was developed by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) – is on track to share its progress later in 2021.

Intended to help deliver on the vision of the Paris Agreement, Advancing Net Zero aims to achieve total decarbonization for the building sector by 2050. It has an interim goal of ‘net zero’ for all new buildings and major renovations by 2030. Individual Green Building Councils are cooperating with the WorldGBC (as well as public and private sector organizations) to implement the goals on an individual country basis.

This all sounds very positive. But, in reality, how do you monitor the real progress being made? Well, the good news is that 2020 was the first year in which the signatories to the Advancing Net Zero initiative had to demonstrate the efforts being made to “decarbonize their portfolios”.

Among other aspects, this means that participants have to provide examples of “genuine change” as well as verification of building performance – for example, via one or more of the formal green building certification schemes.

Accountability matters

This kind of accountability is important if schemes like this are to be successful. Even to the most forward-looking firms, decarbonization can feel very daunting. But by reporting regularly on progress in a straightforward manner, it begins to feel more realistic. Once the main stages of change are apparent, organizations of all kinds can think about how to apply them to their own set-ups. Then, in a more universal way, benchmarking to certification schemes provides reassurance that everyone is moving forward in a similar fashion.

It is certain that we will be hearing a lot more about progress in the built environment in the run-up to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference. Referred to as COP26, the event is due to take place this November at the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow, Scotland. With the US rejoining the Paris Agreement after a period in which climatic events such as floods and wildfires have become more discernible, it’s clear that many people will be hoping the event provides fresh direction for the post-Covid world.

Still, even in its 2020 ‘Status Report’ (1), the WorldGBC was able to point to some major practical steps being taken in the built environment. One example is the London Energy Transformation Initiative, which is helping project teams to design buildings that deliver large embodied carbon reductions. Also significant is the inclusion of detailed built environment requirements – as put forward by the WorldGBC – into public procurement policy taking place within the European Commission’s EU Green Deal.

Ultimately, the more organizations that commit to specific action plans – and, critically, are seen to commit to them – the closer the “tipping point” will be. In this regard, too, the WorldGBC had more good news about Advancing Net Zero in its latest update (2), with global banks, construction firms and real estate companies among the latest signatories.

In summary, it is clear that a positive direction of travel for net zero in the built environment is no longer in doubt. Keeping up the momentum for decades to come won’t be easy, though. However, here at the Priva Lab for Innovation, we remain optimistic: the recent trend towards greater transparency about climate progress is something we can see reflected in our own conversations with customers and Partners. The future is looking bright (and green!).

Source: (1) (site requires registration to access the full report)

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