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In the publication, WorldGBC recommends when, how, and why offsetting may be used to advance net zero carbon emissions in the built environment.

‘Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon: Offsetting Residual Emissions from the Building and Construction Sector’ outlines WorldGBC’s recommendations for when, how, and why offsetting may be used to advance net zero carbon emissions in the built environment. Emission reduction efforts should be prioritised at all opportunities. However, in the immediate term, offsets are a necessary part of the transition towards total decarbonisation, or zero carbon, for the building and construction sector.

Why is Offsetting Necessary?

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.

Offsetting Principles

WorldGBC advocates for halving emissions of the building and construction sector by 2030 and the total decarbonisation of the sector by 2050. As we transition, we also recognise the value of offsets as a means to compensate for and neutralise the impacts of the sector, and to facilitate positive social and environmental impact in pursuit of overall net zero emissions. This will be achieved through prioritising a best practice approach, as set out within the following principles:


Prioritise emissions reduction: Minimise the need for offsets in the first place via best practice sustainable construction and operation. This means reducing energy demand, shifting away from fossil fuels, and using 100% renewable energy as soon as possible. 


Compensate for residual emissions: For any un-abatable residual emissions, invest in carbon reduction or storage projects that are credible, unique, additional and permanent as determined via independent third-party verification.


Advance tangible benefits: Direct funds into offsets that store carbon and provide additional tangible environmental and/or social improvements, particularly those that have additional nature-based co-benefits or co-benefits in line with the Sustainable Developments Goals.


Consistent with the Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting (2020), WorldGBC advocates that companies shift their offsets (1) towards carbon removal over time, and (2) that offsets are deployed with a maximum possible lifespan, under-pinning offset permanence wherever possible.

Please refer to local Green Building Council (GBC) guidance for market-specific guidance and offsetting principles. National guidance has been produced by multiple GBCs, including UKGBCDGNB and GBC Australia.

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