The timing of the IPCC AR6 report was perfect, hammering home the impact of climate change as we see it unfold before our eyes in the form of extreme flooding, forest fires and drought. Economic recovery following the pandemic provides an opportunity to respond to climate change. Market drivers and regulatory change will focus the minds of property professionals. What one thing can be implemented now and will have a positive impact on your carbon emissions?
Threat – Understanding the IPCC Report
The IPCC report states unequivocally ‘that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land and widespread and rapid changes have occurred.’
The magnitude of change in recent times and the resulting situation across climate systems is unprecedented ‘over many centuries to many thousands of years’.
The report states ‘Global warming of 1.5C and 2C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in C02 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades’.
In a world already at 1.2C warming, we have witnessed, with increasing frequency, heatwaves, heavy precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across all regions of the globe.
The report calls for a ‘limit of cumulative C02 emissions to at least net zero’ in order to limit human induced warming, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gases.
There is no clear plan as yet from the UK Government setting out how NetZero will be achieved. A roadmap is anticipated ahead of COP26 in November.
Despite the lack of a plan, the Government’s intention to achieve the 2050 NetZero goals is evidenced in the Build Back Better Campaign and the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution.
As a nation we are on a trajectory to Net Zero but why wait for regulatory policy when the right thing to do is to act.
What can we do?
There are great examples around the world of businesses and collectives taking action with some very encouraging results, they lead - Governments follow.
COP26 will demonstrate this leadership, as the voice of businesses and institutions drive change and demand clarity and courage from Governments.
For the Commercial Real Estate sector, UKGBC has outlined a Framework and a Roadmap to enable property owners, operators and occupiers to take action now. Reducing the scope to operational energy (Scope 1&2) and embodied carbon which can both be effectively measured.
The drive to mitigate carbon presents a significant business opportunity. The recent REEB Benchmarks highlighted that improvements are being made in energy intensity but also highlighted that 97% of offices signed up to REEB fall short of the UK Energy Use Intensity targets for 2035 to 2050. A ‘step change’ in energy efficiency of commercial buildings is required.
What 20% of effort will result in 80% of the desired outcome?
Between 70% and 90% of operational energy is attributed to Heating, Cooling and Lighting in non-domestic buildings. WorldGBC figures state that Heating, Cooling and Lighting account for 28% of global carbon emissions. So efforts to reduce operational energy emissions to netzero seems like a very good starting point.
Get the Baseline from energy bills not EPCs,
Start tracking consumption either manually in a spreadsheet or even better by recording meter readings automatically.
It may be useful to install additional low cost meters to understand the energy breakdown in terms of which parts of the building are more energy intensive and what are the largest proportions of total energy usage.
Set goals: UKGBC ‘Paris Proof’ targets and RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge provide milestones. Carbon Offsets will be a useful tool for firms aspiring to NetZero sooner.
Implement Ongoing Monitoring – manual or automated tracking of performance against target trajectory.
Stakeholder engagement is fundamental to the success of any performance related initiative, and in the case of NetZero is probably the most important factor. Building occupiers typically account for 60% of energy consumption.
Energy saving measures should be made obvious using shared dashboards, newsletters. Financial savings and carbon reductions should be communicated regularly. Any requirements and consequences should be made very clear for tenants, facility managers, property managers and owners. Metered data can be used to display for example:
energy wasted per day;
Carbon emissions avoided per day/week/month displayed by the tenant area and whole building.
Change is affected by spotlighting impacts of individual choices. I liked this example of a coffee shop in Kent where staff collected all the recyclable cups littering the town centre and ‘displayed’ them on the shop floor. Customers asking for recyclable cups had to wade through the debris whilst those with reusable cups were served at the window. Subsequently the shop now only serves customers with reusable cups. A bold move to change the status quo.
Direct Carbon emissions and reduction is relatively easy to measure and improve, there are business benefits of demonstrating a commitment to NetZero. UKGBC outlines a low risk strategy aimed at stimulating carbon mitigation efforts in the commercial real estate sector. Tenants and employees will vote with their feet in the same way that the coffee shop customers have. Some will leave but others will replace them. And some good will have been accomplished in the process.