The recent IPCC report estimates the remaining global carbon budget between 2020 and 2050, if we are to reach the global net zero goal, is around 300 GtCO2. This would give us 83% likelihood of meeting the 1.5oC scenario.
For the built environment, this means we must use all of the tools at our disposal — in the right ways — to transition towards a net zero carbon, healthy, equitable and resilient built environment as soon as possible.
As we continue to build, we worsen the situation. Even with carbon emissions reduced through good design and specification, utilising the best available approaches, technologies and materials, there remains a significant residual carbon impact that can only currently be addressed through offsetting. A transition to a fully decarbonised building and construction sector requires a complete and unprecedented migration away from fossil fuels in building operations (both new and existing), supply chains and construction processes, as well as maximising opportunities for circularity in materials and buildings.
Therefore, in addition to aggressive emissions reduction strategies via effective, high performance building design (as set out in the Advancing Net Zero framework) and until necessary design, technological and supply chain interventions can be adopted as business-as-usual, residual emissions may remain — particularly when pursuing net zero whole life carbon.
Compensating for the emissions we cannot prevent today will support acceleration of the decarbonisation agenda — critical to achieving the 1.5oC Paris climate goal.
Although WorldGBC recognises that in the long-term, achieving net zero means neutralising residual emissions with carbon removals, sector-based compensation offsets and non credit based actions can be part of a holistic approach to sustainability that supports the SDGs.
In the short- and medium-term, sector-based compensation offsets can enable tangible environmental and social co-benefits such as improved air quality, access to renewable energy and quality of life.