The World Green Building Council’s mission is to mitigate the high environmental impact caused by the building and construction industry. It is comprised of around 70 Green Building Councils from around the globe. All of whom are working towards the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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Notably, the construction industry is responsible for around 40% of carbon emissions on the planet. It is an industry that stands to see a huge reduction in its environmental impact with the implementation of new policies.  

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What the WorldGBC does

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, set to take place in Glasglow, Scotland in early November 2021, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has released an update to its foundational Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment

The original commitment advocates for halving emissions of the building and construction sector by 2030 and the total decarbonization of the sector by 2050. The goal is to achieve this through reducing the energy consumption of existing buildings, eliminating emissions and removing any reliance on fossil fuels. It requires innovative thinking and a dedicated focus around the way buildings are designed, built, occupied and deconstructed. The commitment looks to encourage business models that promote circularity, re-use of buildings and materials, whole life-cycle thinking and high-performance operations. 

“With the buildings sector accounting for 40% of global emissions and 50% of resource consumption, the need for urgent action is critical,” said Nigel Topping, COP26 high level climate action champion. “WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment provides a bold approach for businesses looking to be a front runner in decarbonizing emissions from buildings by 2030.”  

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Update to the commitment

The WorldGBC sees 2030 as a crucial date to measure progress. In alignment with the United Nations-backed Race-to-Zero campaign, a marked carbon-cutting achievement by 2030 sets the industry up for success in achieving the decarbonation goal for 2050. 

With this in mind, the WorldGBC updated the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment to include slashing embodied carbon in addition to operational emissions. By definition, embodied emissions are those produced before the building becomes operational, including the impact from manufacturing, transportation and installation.

The WorldGBC estimates that globally 10% of carbon emissions come from the materials and construction processes required to build and renovate buildings (embodied carbon). While that may seem to be less of concern than the more impactful operational carbon emissions, advancements in energy-efficient practices, passive design elements and renewable energy options means that part of the industry is making fast progress in areas committed to green building.

However, as that portion of the construction industry sees improvement, it means a larger chunk of the carbon release will be from embodied carbon. In fact, it’s estimated that between 2020 and 2050, more than half of total carbon emissions from all new global construction will be due to embodied carbon.

To counter this, the WorldGBC has set a goal for all new buildings and renovations to cut embodied carbon by 40% by 2030. In addition, all buildings must achieve net zero operational emissions. 

“The update to the WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment elevates the ambition for the building and construction sector to go further and faster to decarbonize,” said CEO of the World Green Building Council Christina Gamboa. “It sets a target for compensating for emissions associated with buildings and construction, and the tangible social and environmental co-benefits of this approach creates a powerful catalyst towards achieving the Paris Agreement goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Achieving our vision of sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere means acting now to tackle upfront carbon, whilst planning with whole life carbon in mind.”

This larger vision is aimed at boosting the efforts of leaders through guidance outlined in the “Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon: Offsetting Residual Emissions from the Building and Construction Sector” publication. 

In short, the combined efforts of the WorldGBC are in alignment with those of the Paris Agreement and #BuildingToCOP26 Coalition and outline a focus on the life-cycle of buildings with attention to environmental impact at every phase. As a result, it mandates new builds and renovations be highly efficient, powered by renewables, achieve maximum reductions in embodied carbon and offset any residual upfront emissions. 

“Bold action is vital to limit the worst effects of climate breakdown – and that’s why the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment from the WorldGBC is so important,” said Managing Director and Co-Founder of the Science Based Targets Alberto Carrillo Pineda. “This leadership sets the direction for the building and construction industry. Considering the state of the climate emergency, we are calling on all world leaders, businesses and individuals to take urgent action to decarbonize the built environment at the pace and scale required by science.”

+ WorldGBC

Images via WorldGBC