The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment calls on the building and construction sector to take action to decarbonise the built environment, inspire others to take similar action, and to remove barriers to implementation.
 
It recognises leadership action to reduce the impacts of the sector, which is globally responsible for 36% of energy consumption, 38% of energy related carbon emissions, 50% of resource consumption, and expected to double in total footprint by 2060.
 
The next decade of climate action is crucial. Join our growing community of signatories who are advancing net zero by taking action now to decarbonise our built environment.

 

The Commitment

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (the Commitment) recognises leadership action by businesses, organisations, cities and subnational governments in tackling operational and embodied carbon emissions from the building and construction sector. 

This requires deep collaboration across the entire value chain, and radical transformation in the way buildings are designed, built, occupied and deconstructed. It requires new business models that promote circularity, re-use of buildings and materials, whole life cycle thinking, high performance operations, and ultimately a shift away from fossil fuels.

The Commitment considers the whole lifecycle impact of buildings and builds on WorldGBC’s Whole Life Carbon Vision and best practice principles for implementation. 

The Commitment requires that by 2030:

  • Existing buildings reduce their energy consumption and eliminate emissions from energy and refrigerants removing fossil fuel use as fast as practicable (where applicable). Where necessary, compensate for residual emissions.
  • New developments and major renovations are built to be highly efficient, powered by renewables, with a maximum reduction in embodied carbon and compensation of all residual upfront emissions.

A reduction first, outcomes based approach to decarbonisation.

The Commitment promotes a reduction first, outcomes based approach — allowing the flexibility for signatories to develop a bespoke action plan for their specific portfolio profile based on best practice principles towards reducing both consumption and emissions, with annual reporting of verified progress towards decarbonisation goals.

Through gathering data to inform low carbon choices, relevant benchmarks and targets can be set, best practice methods incorporated, associated costs reduced, and greater uptake enabled — accelerating market transformation and leading to significant sector emissions reductions.

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.

In recognition of the link to improving energy productivity in buildings, the Commitment is recognised as a pathway to membership of EP100 for eligible businesses. Signatories must opt-in and there is a fee associated with membership.

Find out more on the Resources & Further Guidance page.

 

Why Whole Life Carbon?

In order to prevent and mitigate embodied emissions, increase resource efficiency and stimulate the development and market supply of low carbon products, the sector must (1) reduce and account for its impact on the environment and natural resources through design and construction, and (2) generate a strong and urgent demand signal to activate the necessary finance to decarbonise materials, construction and heavy industry processes.

As this is a global challenge requiring local solutions, the Commitment is outcomes focused and action based, allowing for creative and flexible solutions at asset and portfolio level based on best practice application.

 

Theory of Change: Advancing Net Zero

Advancing net zero emissions is a journey and an integral part of a wider systemic shift towards a more sustainable built environment. As part of the transition towards total sector decarbonisation, WorldGBC advocates for a holistic approach to sustainability that also enables tangible environmental and social co-benefits in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Signatories to the Commitment are advancing net zero by facilitating and accelerating market transformation. Their commitment represents a leadership position within the buildings and construction sector in taking action further and faster to decarbonise the built environment. Through this action, we seek to engender sector transformation that will allow mainstream actors to achieve the goals set out within WorldGBC’s Sustainable Buildings for Everyone, Everywhere strategy.

 

The Commitment components

Click below to scroll through the stages

1Commit 2Disclose 3Act 4Verify 5Advocate

Operational Carbon

assets under direct control to reduce (and compensate where necessary) all operational carbon emissions by 2030

Embodied Carbon

new developments and major renovations under direct control to reduce and compensate (for residual upfront emissions) embodied carbon emissions by 2030

Operational Carbon

and assess annual asset and portfolio operational energy demand and carbon emissions

Embodied Carbon

whole life carbon emissions according to EN 15978 or other accepted national standard

Operational Carbon

to achieve maximum emission reductions with key actions and milestones towards energy efficiency and renewable energy

Embodied Carbon

to achieve maximum emission reductions in upfront, in-use and end-of-life embodied carbon

Operational Carbon

enhanced energy performance, reduced carbon emissions and progress towards net zero carbon assets and portfolio

Embodied Carbon

prevention strategies, WLCA calculations, offsets and progress towards net zero embodied carbon assets and portfolio

Operational Carbon

for wider emissions reduction by acting as a catalyst through core organisation activities for further action within respective supply chains

Embodied Carbon

for wider emissions reduction by acting as a catalyst through core organisation activities for further action within respective supply chains

Underlying Principles

Actions as part of a decarbonisation strategy must be demonstrated based on the following principles:

Operational Carbon

1Reduce 2Generate 3Compensate 4Plan
Reduce and optimise energy demand — prioritise consumption reduction and energy efficiency to ensure that buildings are performing as efficiently as possible, and not wasting energy. Generate balance from renewables — supply remaining demand from renewable energy sources, either on-site or off-site. Compensate for residual emissions — offset residual operational emissions, such as from refrigerants or the use of unavoidable fossil fuels in buildings with high quality, credible compensation activities. Plan for deep decarbonisation — set up action plans to remove any remaining sources of fossil fuels in buildings as soon as possible.

Embodied Carbon

1Prevent 2Reduce & Optimise 3Plan 4Compensate
Prevent — avoid embodied carbon from the outset by considering alternative strategies to deliver the desired function (i.e. renovation of existing buildings rather than new development etc). Reduce and optimize - Evaluate each design choice in terms of the upfront carbon reductions and as part of a whole lifecycle approach (i.e. lean construction, low carbon materials and construction processes etc). Plan for the future — take steps to avoid future embodied carbon during and at end of life (i.e. maximise potential for renovation, future adaptation, circularity etc.) Compensate for residual emissions — offset residual embodied carbon emissions with high quality, credible compensation activities.

Commitment Signatories

Click below to find out more about each signatory and read their Commitment Profile outlining what actions and policies they are pursuing.

122 Businesses & Organisations 28 Cities 6 States & Regions

FAQs

WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment calls on businesses, organisations, cities and subnational governments to reduce (and compensate where necessary) all operational and embodied carbon emissions within their portfolios by 2030, and to advocate for all buildings to be net zero whole life carbon by 2050. 
 
It recognises leadership action to reduce the impacts of the sector, which is globally responsible for 36% of energy consumption, 38% of energy related carbon emissions, 50% of resource consumption, and expected to double in total footprint by 2060.
 
It promotes an outcomes based, action oriented approach based on best practice 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 and wider benefits. Signatories can refer to local GBC guidance and frameworks, and track their progress using GBC rating tools. 

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment focuses on operational (Scope 1 and 2 energy related emissions including refrigerants and process loads) and embodied carbon emissions of building assets over which the entity has direct control (accounted for as part of Scope 3 emissions). 
 
Together, these combine to cover the majority of whole life emissions of an asset across its lifecycle. 
 
More information about defining the full scope of emissions covered by the commitment and the definition of direct control can be found in the forthcoming Detailed Guidance document. 

The requirements for addressing embodied carbon and/or operational carbon are dependent on the portfolio profile of each entity. This is determined via direct control of the assets (operational and financial control):

  • If an entity only has existing buildings to manage within its portfolio, the operational carbon requirements apply.

  • When an entity is also responsible for the development of new buildings or major renovations within its portfolio, both the operational carbon and embodied carbon requirements apply.

Effective 1 January 2023, all new signatories to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment will be required to commit to the requirements relevant to their portfolio profile and activities.

The Commitment requires that by 2030:

  • Existing buildings reduce their energy consumption and eliminate emissions from energy and refrigerants removing fossil fuel use as fast as practicable (where applicable). Where necessary, compensate for residual emissions.

  • New developments and major renovations are built to be highly efficient, powered by renewables, with a maximum reduction in embodied carbon and compensation of all residual upfront emissions.

Existing signatories will be invited to consider the updated Commitment requirements, and then reconfirm their Commitment via a new joining form. 
 
WorldGBC will work with existing signatories to help them understand what the requirements mean for their business or organisation, what actions they will need to undertake in order to achieve these goals, and the reporting requirements for embodied carbon.

For more information please contact anzproject@worldgbc.org

 

The Commitment outlines a reduction first approach for both operational and embodied carbon, with offsetting only allowed for residual emissions that cannot be mitigated.

WorldGBC supports an approach to total decarbonisation of the building and construction sector that utilises offsets as a necessary part of the transition, in order to compensate for the impacts of the sector and facilitate the pursuit of overall net zero emissions.

Please refer to WorldGBC’s position paper 'Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon: Offsetting Residual Emissions from the Building and Construction Sector’ for more information, and local Green Building Council (GBC) guidance for market specific guidance and offsetting principles.

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. 

Offsetting the emissions we cannot avoid today will support acceleration of the decarbonisation agenda — critical to achieving the 1.5°C Paris climate goal.

For more information please see 'Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon: Offsetting Residual Emissions from the Building and Construction Sector’.

The Commitment is designed to recognise leadership action towards decarbonising building portfolios, and the contribution of signatories to the wider industry transformation towards net zero, and ultimately, zero carbon.

In addressing residual emissions, WorldGBC recognises that definitions of net zero and approaches to achieve a net zero emissions balance vary. As set out in Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon: Offsetting Residual Emissions from the Building and Construction Sector, WorldGBC recommends that signatories should pursue permanent removal offsets wherever possible, and consider compensation offsets in the short- and medium-term. Signatories should be aware of how various initiatives define net zero, and what actions are recognised under different initiatives, to ensure they are complementary and support a net zero claim.

Please refer to the ‘Navigating net zero’ section of the Introduction document for more information.

Due to the Commitment's flexible nature in scope, there is significant alignment and benefits in pursuing a combined approach with other global leading initiatives. To provide further guidance on this, WorldGBC has developed 'Aligning Initiatives' documents for the following initiatives and will develop more moving forwards. Click on the link to find out more:

WorldGBC views the Commitment and Science Based Targets as complementary climate  initiatives. Entities who are pursuing targets outlined by SBTi in the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5oc’ campaign or future Net Zero Framework/Standard can use the Commitment to inform their actions in terms of decarbonising the built environment assets over which they have direct control. Crucially, the Commitment 2030 targets align with and contribute towards SBT’s call to halve emissions by 2030.

SBT recently completed a public consultation on the proposed SBTi Net-Zero Criteria, with a view to produce a final net zero framework. The ‘ SBTI Net-Zero Standard’ will include target setting guidance and target validation criteria, and is due for release in 2021.

The Commitment and SBTi align in our guidance towards entities seeking to decarbonise their organisation and their built environment assets. Entities should pursue a reduction first approach in all instances, reducing their emissions by the greatest extent possible as quickly as possible. Any remaining unabateable residual emissions should then be compensated for accordingly. In order to make a net zero claim recognised by SBTi, this should be achieved through carbon removal offsets only.


WorldGBC will monitor these developments and produce guidance on alignment accordingly. In regards to definitions of net zero and what types of offsets will be recognised under SBT’s framework please refer to 'Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon: Offsetting Residual Emissions from the Building and Construction Sector’ for more information.

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.

For further resources and guidance for the Commitment see here.

For more technical detail, please contact our Advancing Net Zero team here: anzproject@worldgbc.org.

Interested in signing up to the Commitment?

Resources & Further Guidance Commitment resources & further guidance. Read More
Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon WorldGBC's position on offsetting within the built environment Read More
NZCB Commitment Introduction: Businesses & Organisations Download Read More
Commitment Reporting Information on Commitment reporting process & form. Read More
Commitment FAQs Download Read More
Commitment Glossary Key terms & definitions Read More
Partner Organisations

With special thanks to individuals and organisations participating in the Working Group and Taskforce