Part of the GPT Wholesale Office Fund, 8 Exhibition Street, Melbourne

The Investor Panel at Tomorrowland 2018 last week made the call: the property sector is friendly but super competitive – and that’s handy when it comes to sustainability and net zero.

By Monday competition spirit was in full flight.  GPT Wholesale Office Fund said it would aim for a net zero carbon emissions portfolio by the end of 2020 – easily the tightest target in the A-REIT sector (Australian real estate investment trust) so far.

The target is five years ahead of the next closest: Lendlease’s Australian Prime Property Fund Commercial’s (APPFC) target for net zero carbon by 2025, which was announced earlier this year.

In 2014, Mirvac’s This Changes Everything Program set bold targets to be net zero positive by 2030 and to recycle 95 per cent of its waste.

Dexus has also jumped aboard the net zero challenge, with a commitment set for 2030.

Investa, whose group executive property Michael Cook made the observation at Tomorrowland,  kicked it all off with a target of net zero emissions by 2040. Investa said it would use the Science Based Target initiative, a framework that references the need to limit global warming to under 2°C, in line with the Paris Agreement.

How GPT plans on hitting the target

By the end of 2020 – less than two and a half years away – GPT wants to achieve net zero carbon emissions across its $7.5 billion portfolio of 18 buildings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

To hit the target, the plan is to slash energy consumption in its buildings, invest in more on-site renewable energy generation, and buy renewable energy.

This will involve rolling out energy efficient LED lighting across its portfolio, the installation of photovoltaic solar cells on several office buildings and securing long-term contracts with renewable energy suppliers.

The company will also trial battery technology to reduce energy costs and dependence on the grid during peak demand periods.

“This is a challenging task but we are committed to taking a leadership role in reducing carbon emissions,” GPT Wholesale Office Fund manager Martin Ritchie said.

“We recognise the property sector accounts for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions and as result we want the GWOF portfolio to be carbon neutral by the end of 2020,” he said.

“Cutting the energy use of our buildings and moving to a zero carbon target also makes good business sense as it will significantly reduce energy costs and assist tenants who have their own targets to reduce emissions.”

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