Net zero commitments have increased in 2021 as cities, investors, businesses and educational institutions show their intention to engineer a more sustainable future. This common ambition, supported by the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, is a good sign. But plans must become action sometime soon.

Real estate and the built environment – attributable for nearly 40% of global carbon emissions – have a big part to play. JLL’s Decarbonising the Built Environment report discovered that only 18% of organisations maintain an action plan for their real estate portfolio. While much heed goes to new, state-of-the-art buildings that attain the most elevated sustainability certifications, 70% of buildings that stand today will still be standing in the year 2050, emphasising the need to repurpose spaces, retrofit older buildings and refurbish in accordance with circular economic principles.

They required a plan to drive their real estate to net zero carbon emissions. Now they have one. To direct real estate investors and occupiers on attaining their net zero carbon targets across their portfolios, JLL has partnered with the World Economic Forum to create 10 Green Building Principles. It is compatible with established initiatives, by specifying what companies need to accomplish to deliver against the WorldGBC Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.

The Green Building Principles cover five key areas:

1. Taking on a data-directed approach

Businesses must calculate a solid carbon footprint of their portfolios in the most recent year to enlighten targets.

2. Establishing goals along the way

The size of the challenge confronting us in the coming years is massive. Companies must designate a target year for attaining net-zero carbon as a portion of their long-term strategy–no later than 2050, but most companies and governments are aiming for sooner. Interim targets should be reduced at least 50% of these emissions by the year 2030.

3. Addressing embodied carbon

Businesses must maximize emissions reductions for new developments and major refurbishments in the pipeline to guarantee delivery of net-zero carbon by their target year.

Measuring and recording embodied carbon emissions affiliated with the materials and construction processes for new developments and major refurbishments is important. The World Green Building Council believes it will account for half of the carbon footprint of new building between now and 2050. Lessening it through measures like low-carbon materials, modular construction and implementing a circular economy approach will be an essential factor in real estate’s ability to attain net zero.

4. Focus on clean energy

Lowering the energy structures consume is essential to a net zero future. This means businesses must impel energy optimisation across standing assets and new developments. They must maximise the supply of on-site renewable energy, and ensure all off-site energy is generated from renewable-backed sources where available.

Any residual emissions must be made up for by purchasing top-quality carbon offsets. Much guidance has been released in the last year, but more is to come, particularly through the SBTi’s Net-Zero Standard.

5. Collaborate widely

Attaining net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is going to necessitate working together at every stage. Our principles require engaging with stakeholders in the value chain to lessen Scope 3 emissions (indirect emissions in the wider value chain). Businesses must develop more partnerships to pinpoint opportunities and equally share the expenses and benefits of interventions.

Investors and occupiers must deliver against the commitments they have specified in the past year. With the Green Principles framework, it’s not a question of how can we attain net zero, but how can we get there faster. Let’s advance the momentum and make 2022 the year that real estate morphs promises into action.



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