Two built environment companies. Two radically different approaches to achieving climate neutrality. One has chosen to align themselves with the Paris Agreement through Science Based Targets. The other is going for Net Zero. 

Science-based targets

Frasers Property, long considered a climate-forward leader in the property industry, has had its sustainability targets approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative. This will see the Industrial division of the property developer reduce Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 46.2 per cent by FY 2030 from a FY 2019 base year. Scope 3 emissions will be reduced by 46.2 per cent over the same time frame. 

Frasers said these targets are in alignment with the goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change to restrict global warming to within 1.5°C of pre-industrial averages by 2050. 

Net zero

Meanwhile, engineering consultancy Cundall has adopted a different approach, instead choosing to focus on net zero in all of its projects by 2030.

The Zero Carbon Design 2030 will involve the global engineering firm working with asset owners and asset managers to develop net zero pathways through full electrification. Once emissions have been reduced as much as possible, offsets will be used to achieve carbon neutrality. 

“We are seeing portfolio owners who have set themselves net zero targets for 2030 at the board level as part of their ESG strategy, and now they need to know how to get there,” said the firm’s Asia-Pacific managing director Julian Bott.

“It is not just a matter of buying offsets. We are working with these asset owners and asset managers to develop logical, practical pathways that improve a property for users, reduce operating costs for energy and transition to full electrification. Once energy use and emissions have been reduced to the greatest extent possible, only then do offsets enter the equation.”

In the interim, Cundall will target net zero carbon on 25 per cent of its project by the end of 2024. All of its 25 offices around the world will be involved in the initiative. The firm was a founding signatory of the World Green Building Council Climate Pledge and was certified carbon neutral by the Carbon Trust in 2020. 

The Australian business helps existing buildings reduce their emissions through energy-efficiency audits and upgrades, planning for electrification and achieving net zero carbon. 

What’s the difference anyway? 

With so many climate buzzwords in circulation, how does a business choose which framework to adhere to? And what’s the difference between net zero and a science-based target anyway? 

As the name suggests, net zero is the reduction of a company’s carbon emissions to zero, net of offsets by a specified date. The rate of reduction is largely up to the company. This is a pledge to achieve carbon neutrality, as opposed to a set emissions reduction. 

Science-based Targets are based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change modelling, and are sector specific. If followed they will allow the company to be aligned with a 2°C or less warming scenario. The targets specify a total remaining carbon budget, which is divided across all industries. To be consistent with this, a business will need to reduce its emissions in line with the overall budget for a given sector. 

The biggest difference between the two is that SBTs do not allow for carbon offsetting, because companies can use offsets to avoid making deeper emissions cuts. Carbon offsets are only allowed as a transition measure. 

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