WEF proposes real estate change to avoid “irreversible course of destruction”


Global real estate CEOs warn of existential threat from climate change and propose new roadmap to tackle it. 

With 38% of energy-related carbon emissions coming from buildings, the World Economic Forum has warned that real estate must change fast and set out how to do it.

Buildings generate around 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions from operational activities, and another 10% from materials and construction. So the World Economic Forum’s global real estate CEO community has set out a bold vision and roadmap for a more sustainable future for buildings that will also make them more liveable, resilient and affordable.

The newly proposed Green Building Principles have been developed as part of a report with JLL that warns that the world is “warming at an alarming rate, setting humanity on an irreversible course of destruction if drastic action is not taken immediately.”

But despite the dire warnings, the report also sets out cause for optimism that it can be overcome. There is increasing global recognition of the threat climate change represents and ambitious decarbonisation targets are being set ahead of the 2021 United Nation’s (UN) Conference of the Parties (COP26).

The real estate sector faces particular complexities in decarbonising highly diverse portfolios and so the report sets out of ten principles that the real estate sector should adopt and that will enable them to decarbonise at a portfolio level. The principles are: 

  1. Calculate a robust carbon footprint of your portfolio in the most recent representative year to inform targets
  2. Set a target year for achieving net-zero carbon, by 2050 at the latest, and an interim target for reducing at least 50% of these emissions by 2030
  3. Measure and record embodied carbon of new developments and major refurbishments.
  4. Maximise emissions reductions for all new developments and major refurbishments in the pipeline to ensure delivery of net-zero carbon (operational and embodied) by selected final target year
  5. Drive energy optimization across both existing assets and new developments
  6. Maximise supply of on-site renewable energy.
  7. Ensure 100% off-site energy is procured from renewable-backed sources, where available
  8. Engage with stakeholders with whom you have influence in your value chain to reduce scope 3 emissions
  9. Compensate for any residual emissions by purchasing high-quality carbon offsets
  10. Engage with stakeholders to identify joint endeavours and equitably share costs and benefits of interventions

The full action plan draws on existing recommendations and signposts to an array of current targets to deliver this set of Principles at a global level while allowing for adaptation to local contexts. You can read the report here