Scaling Climate Action in the Buildings Sector: The Power of Collaboration

4th May 2023

The building sector is a major contributor of emissions worldwide, accounting for more than a third of global CO2 emissions. This sector is also growing at an exponential rate; it is estimated that between 2020 and 2050 the global floor area of buildings will increase by 75%. Greenhouse gas emissions are therefore likely to rise dramatically if decarbonization efforts are not implemented immediately.

What’s more, climate change is having an escalating and profound impact on the real estate industry. Extreme weather events such as strong winds, heat waves, floods and forest fires physically damage buildings and reduce their lifetime. Adverse weather is already delaying 45% of construction projects and causing billions of dollars in additional costs worldwide, annually.

To enable the transformation to a net-zero economy, avoid the catastrophic impacts of global warming and remain economically competitive, it is imperative for companies in this sector to scale up climate action. Expanding on our previously developed Sectoral Decarbonization Approach (SDA), the SBTi Buildings Project is providing businesses with new methodologies, tools and guidance to align their climate mitigation plans with the latest science.

Harnessing collaboration to decarbonize the buildings sector

When it comes to tackling the biggest problem the world has ever seen, we must draw on the power of collaboration. Therefore, to maximize the impact of the SBTi Buildings Project and ensure a globally consistent standard aligned with 1.5°C, we are working with two key players:

  • The Carbon Risk Real Estate Monitor initiative (CRREM) - an initiative that provides real estate investors and other stakeholders with decarbonization and energy intensity pathways for the operation of buildings.
  • Ramboll - a global engineering, architecture and consultancy company driving improvement and developing new sustainable business models.

These partnerships will enable our Buildings Project to draw on a range of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, experience and resources, including experts from academia, civil society and business, to help address systemic challenges and develop new solutions.

Through these technical collaborations, we are developing and refining decarbonization pathways for operational and embodied emissions, as well as target-setting methodologies and tools to cover a large share of building types within the real estate sector. The work covers three core areas:

  1. 1.5°C pathways for in-use emissions. As part of this project, CRREM and the SBTi have developed fully-aligned 1.5°C in-use emissions decarbonization pathways. These pathways will help ensure the appropriate reductions from buildings’ operational greenhouse gas emissions. We will also provide regional in-use pathways for different building typologies, so that targets can better reflect the location and type of buildings that a company’s emissions stem from.
  2. 1.5°C pathways for embodied emissions. In an industry first, we are working with Ramboll to provide 1.5°C global embodied emissions decarbonization pathways. That is, covering the emissions associated with materials and construction processes throughout the lifecycle of a building - filling an 11% gap of global carbon emissions that have so far largely been overlooked. To date, the decarbonization efforts have been mostly focused on operational emissions.
  3. Emissions accounting, reporting and target-setting guidance. Additionally, we have enlisted support from PwC to develop guidance on emissions accounting, target-setting and reporting to help real estate companies set ambitious near- and long-term science-based targets.

We are also developing a target-setting tool that will accompany the SBTi Buildings Guidance. This tool will help calculate the emissions reductions required for businesses to model and develop ambitious science-based targets.

The project is supported by an Expert Advisory Group (EAG) made up of representatives from industry, NGOs and academia, providing a valuable sounding board as the resources are developed. The EAG has been divided into three sub-groups, focused on each of the project core areas listed above.

Coming up next

On May 16, 2023 we will start a public, multi-stakeholder consultation, during which industry and non-industry representatives will be able to provide feedback on each project component. The public consultation is expected to last two months. The inputs received will inform the development of robust, clear and practical guidance and resources. Following this, we will launch the SBTi Buildings Guidance and Target-Setting Tool in Q4 2023.

Join us for the launch of the public consultation on May 16 to learn more.

Step up and act fast

As the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated, it is still possible to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, but only if the world takes a quantum leap in climate action. Businesses in the buildings sector must play their part in accelerating the decarbonization of the global economy. And, this can only be achieved by aligning their emissions reductions with climate science.

Commit to set a science-based target today and join the buildings project mailing list to stay up-to-date and have your say during the public consultation.