GBCA backs new global vision for net zero carbon by 2050

Tuesday 24 September 2019

A bold global vision for dramatic reductions in embodied carbon across the built environment has been endorsed by the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) with leading Australian companies also pledging their support.

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has today released the Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfrontreport, which sets a worldwide challenge for buildings and infrastructure to cut embodied carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 and achieve 100 per cent net zero emissions for buildings by 2050.

Australian leadership has dominated the response to this challenge with 20 GBCA members out of 81 organisations globally being among the first to endorse the ambition outlined in the report. 

They include the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC), the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA), product certification systems Global Green Tag International Pty Ltd, Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), leading local governments like the City of Melbourne and City of Sydney, and companies AECOM, Atelier 10, Cundall, Edge Environment, Frasers Property Australia, Integral Group, Interface, JLL, LafargeHolcim, Multiplex Global, RDT Pacific, Shaw Contract, thinkstep Australasia and WSP. 

Embodied carbon emissions are those released during the entire life cycle of the building, including manufacturing, transport, construction, operations and end-of-life phases. The report outlines the need for reducing all embodied carbon emissions, with a particular focus on reducing those upfront, that is, those emissions from manufacturing and construction.

GBCA CEO Davina Rooney heralded the ambitious vision saying the report demonstrated an achievable and necessary pathway to reduce emissions.

“Our built environment must play a critical role in reducing unsustainable carbon outputs, given it is currently responsible for 39 per cent of global emissions,” Ms Rooney said.

“We have had a strong focus on operational carbon emissions. Now it is time to boost our efforts to reduce embodied carbon emissions as well.

“In Australia we are already planning for a net zero carbon future – and better – with many of our members leading the way globally in terms of both innovation and commitment to a lower emissions future.

“As a founding WorldGBC member, we are delighted to see our Carbon Positive Roadmap also highlighted in this report as a leading strategy in industry carbon reduction.”

The report said there were currently very few buildings worldwide that were net zero embodied carbon. The supply chain is dispersed and uses many materials with complex and high-carbon-intensity supply chains.

It sets out a pathway for organisations, policymakers, investors, developers, designers and materials manufacturers to reach set agreements and targets to a timeline.

“This is a radical transition – driving it will require much greater demand from the market as well as rapid scaling of solutions by the supply chain,” the report said.

“Large amounts of additional renewable energy are needed, and some of the solutions we will rely on are currently only at demonstration stage, including carbon capture for utilisation and storage.

“By stimulating market demand we will accelerate investment in actions that will lead to increased competitiveness, improved access to solutions and a wider range of strategies for achieving net zero embodied carbon.”

WorldGBC CEO Cristina Gamboa said the report was a “solution focused response to the urgent need” to significantly reduce upfront emissions in building and construction, and to increase demand for action on carbon-intensive materials and industries.

“With the support of our global network and the endorsements we have received for the report, we are confident that we can stimulate market demand and facilitate radical whole value chain collaboration that will be truly transformative and benefit both people and planet,” she said.

“We will accelerate action to achieve our goal of slashing embodied carbon by 40% by 2030 and securing net zero embodied carbon by 2050, in addition to our net zero operational carbon goals.” 

The report has been endorsed by sustainability organisations worldwide, as well as leading materials industry companies that produce concrete, steel and timber.

It highlights case studies internationally where materials companies have committed to becoming carbon neutral or carbon negative.

A copy of the report can be downloaded HERE, launched as part of World Green Building Week 2019 which runs from 23 to 29 September.