The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment
The Commitment calls upon business, organisations, cities, states and regions to take urgent, courageous and immediate climate action towards decarbonising the built environment. We must commit... we must act, together.
The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (the Commitment) challenges companies, cities, states and regions to reach Net Zero operating emissions in their portfolios by 2030, and to advocate for all buildings to be Net Zero in operation by 2050.
By setting ambitious ‘absolute’ targets, the Commitment aims to maximise the chances of limiting global warming to below 2 degrees, and ideally below 1.5 degrees, by drastically reducing operating emissions from buildings.
The Commitment provides a framework for organisations to develop globally ambitious yet locally relevant, flexible and universally viable solutions for their portfolio to both reduce energy demand and achieve net zero carbon emissions. For businesses, the Commitment is one of three pathways available to join EP100.
Find out more in our Commitment Overview Document.
The five stages of the Commitment
Click below to scroll through the stages
The Commitment officially launched at the Global Climate Action Summit on 13th September, 2018. A large number of signatories from companies, cities, states and regions convened to show leadership in climate action and publicly declare the need for net zero carbon buildings at scale.
Since launching, a wide range of entities have become signatories of the Commitment. Each signatory is unique. Whilst they have their own strategies, complexities and opportunities for their buildings they all share a common goal. Through this goal and as part of this community, all signatories show the possibilities of achieving Net Zero globally and may share their lessons, knowledge and leadership. To find out more about each signatory and what the Commitment means for them and their buildings, click below.
Who can join?
To become a signatory, entities must demonstrate an equivalent level of ambition and impact as the leadership required by the Commitment. This can be through
- International presence to stimulate global markets;
- Significant presence in their country;
- Significant capacity to influence the built environment;
- High level of carbon emissions within their sector relative to an average entity; and/or
- High potential for advocacy to increase uptake within industry
In addition to whole organisations, divisions of entities and non-profit institutions are are also eligible to sign up to the Commitment, subject to eligibility requirements. Contact your local GBC to find out more information.
WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment calls on businesses, organisations, cities, states and regions to reach net zero carbon operating emissions within their portfolios by 2030, and to advocate for all buildings to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050.
The Commitment seeks to recognise and promote advanced climate leadership in decarbonising the built environment, to inspire others to take similar action, and to remove barriers to implementation.
It aims to maximise the chances of limiting global warming to below 2oC and reduce operating emissions from buildings (currently 39% of energy-related CO2 emissions) through the five components of the Commitment framework: COMMIT, DISCLOSE, ACT, VERIFY, ADVOCATE.
Through this framework, the Commitment ensures that all signatories can deliver against their targets, while driving real and tangible reductions.
Net zero carbon is when the amount of carbon dioxide emissions released on an annual basis is zero or negative. Our definition for a net zero carbon building is a highly energy efficient building that is fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources and offsets.
WorldGBC recognises that, in most situations, net zero energy buildings (i.e. buildings that generate 100% of their energy needs on-site) are not feasible. However, buildings which are energy efficient, and which supply energy needs from renewable sources, are a more appropriate target for the emissions reductions required to achieve the Paris Agreement.
By using energy as the only source of measurement, the full impact of emissions on the environment cannot be determined. Carbon (measured in Carbon Equivalence CO2e) is the ultimate metric and a universal language to track the impact of greenhouse gas emissions of buildings.
The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment focuses on operational carbon emissions (Scope 1 and 2 energy related emissions) of buildings over which the entity has direct control. More information about direct control can be found in the Detailed Guidance document. This determines a universally viable baseline in scope that can be applied to any type of entity, across all sectors and in any context. Including any additional emissions scope beyond this – e.g. embodied carbon, refrigerant emissions, industrial and manufacturing process loads or construction related activities – is strongly encouraged. An entity may determine, based on its carbon emissions profile, that one or more of the above list offer significant potential to reduce the carbon footprint for their business operations. This would be recognised within a signatory’s advocacy activities as representing a leadership position.
WorldGBC intends to incorporate wider scope into the baseline of the Commitment as it becomes universally viable to do so, based on available methodologies and processes.
Industrial and manufacturing process loads are often independent of the building itself. For example, processing of aluminium is an activity that happens within a building, but does not serve building occupants, or relate to how the building operates. As a result, industrial and manufacturing process loads are not currently included in the Commitment.
Because all sectors must complete decarbonisation by 2050, WorldGBC strongly encourages all process loads from industrial manufacturing applications to be net zero carbon in operation by 2050.
Currently, methodologies and technologies are limited in how to reduce these loads, and there is no clear pathway forward to meet the 2050 target. To facilitate the required market transformation, all entities are strongly encouraged to plan ways to reduce their carbon emissions and to develop roadmaps for improving energy efficiency and carbon intensity in these processes. We also encourage entities to engage in market initiatives such as the Better Plants initiative from the US Department of Energy.
While addressing operational energy-related carbon emissions through the Commitment, WorldGBC acknowledges that emissions from building and construction also comprise 11% of energy related emissions from the extraction and manufacturing of materials (known as embodied carbon) and construction processes.
Due to the complex nature of standards related to embodied carbon (for existing assets in particular), WorldGBC does not currently require these to be included within the Commitment. Complexities include, but are not limited to: limitations in calculation methodology for global portfolios; influence of other certifications, programmes and supply chain mechanisms; and over-reliance on offsets as a solution. WorldGBC strongly encourages entities to plan, monitor and report embodied carbon emissions as they become proportionately more significant and are ultimately required to reach zero emissions by 2050.
Although embodied carbon is not included in the Commitment at this stage, it remains a priority. WorldGBC aims to showcase the leadership of signatories which have included embodied carbon emissions as part of their advocacy activities, highlighting and recognising how the inclusion was achieved to support industry advancement in the future.
WorldGBC aims to include embodied carbon emissions in future iterations of the Commitment, and actively encourages entities to plan how they can incorporate this challenge going forward.
Entities must disclose within two years of signing, in order to create transparent building performance metrics at asset and portfolio level on which to appropriately inform the other stages.
Disclosure of building performance metrics related to energy consumption and operational carbon emissions is intended to generate easily digestible and publicly available information (for consumers, employees etc.) at portfolio level, and to raise awareness of both energy consumption and the local carbon implications.
Globally, energy efficiency measures could deliver a 48% reduction in global emissions by 2030, with 43% of those coming from buildings, resulting in cumulative savings of $2.5 - $2.8 trillion USD. [Source: How Energy Efficiency Cuts Costs for a 2 Degree Future]
In this context, the Commitment values energy efficiency as a fundamental requirement of reaching net zero carbon for buildings and as a necessary first step towards decarbonisation. Nevertheless, the chosen framework or evaluation metric is entirely up to the entity and based on its own strategic analysis of its business. The energy efficiency measures that the entity implements are expected to contribute significantly towards the goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions while reducing operational costs, limiting reliance on renewable energy, and minimising excessive loads on grid infrastructure.
In the absence of a specific benchmark for energy efficiency, common sources of reliable benchmarks for energy efficiency can be determined from third party green building certification schemes to ensure energy efficiency is addressed beyond local code levels. These are therefore a useful way to demonstrate action in this important area.
Offsets are permitted only as the final option in the renewable hierarchy to reach net zero carbon emissions. As per Principle 3 of the Advancing Net Zero framework, entities should produce and procure renewable electricity in a preferential hierarchy of on-site, off-site, or by offsets. These should also complement building measures that serve to decarbonise the grid.
Entities should include the best possible renewable hierarchy for their portfolio to reduce associated offset costs and to maximise the decarbonisation of grid. Further information on the procurement of renewables and offsets can be found in Appendix B: Guidance for Procurement of Renewables and Offsets in the Detailed Guidance document.
Aligning with recognised and industry leading local third-party certification schemes/market mechanisms often removes the need for additional assurance processes, and provides geographically and climatically relevant prescriptive pathways which, in some cases, are able to meet the energy efficiency requirements of the Advancing Net Zero framework.
While encouraging entities to undergo this rigorous level of verification at both asset and portfolio levels, WorldGBC understands that this may not be possible due to financial, geographical, political or organisational constraints.
Mechanisms for ensuring the appropriate requirements for asset verification, portfolio assurance and reporting in respect of assets and portfolios are described in the Disclose section of the Detailed Guidance document.
WorldGBC defines advocacy as the ability to influence and champion the need to decarbonise beyond scope within an entity’s direct control. All entities have the potential to influence supply chains and change perceptions about the achievability of the targets set out by the Paris Agreement.
Advocacy sends the clearest and loudest message to wider industry to develop the key enablers to facilitate mass market transformation and to overcome specific technical challenges associated with transition towards a zero carbon emissions future.
Advocacy activities will therefore be diverse and unique to each signatory, determined by evaluating the greatest area of impact and influence as relevant to the core business activities or the entity.
Please contact your local GBC to find out more information and to determine the eligibility for the Commitment of your organisation. Your local GBC can arrange a workshop, meeting or phone call to discuss the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment further, and to explore how the challenge of decarbonisation within our framework applies to your organisation.
To understand more about what we mean by net zero, please read our white paper here.
For more information on identifying amd mitigating scope 3 emissions beyond the direct control of a signatory, please read our initial primer document here.
Due to the Commitment's complementary nature in scope and recognition of other global leading initiatives, there is significant alignment and benefits in pursuing a combined approach. To provide further guidance on this, WorldGBC has developed 'Aligning Initiatives' documents for the following initiatives. Click on the link to find out more: