This year’s COP27 saw the scientific community agree that the planet is on track for a three degrees warmer world. Countries must do all they can to act on their commitments – the resounding message continues to be to take action now.
Organisations, industries and nations must move beyond commitments and targets to actions and real change.
The most interesting topics for the real estate industry include:
- Loss and damage
- The role of technology
- Net zero and resilient buildings
Dr Mahmoud Mohieldin, UN climate change high-level champion for Egypt stated at COP27: “The built environment (including infrastructure) is a critical sector to achieve the needed transition to a resilient and zero emissions future. Buildings are responsible for almost 40 per cent of global energy-related carbon emissions and 50 per cent of all extracted materials.”
This year’s conference saw the launch of the Sustainable Communities Initiative: Building for Better Lives.
The workshop was attended by UN agencies, multilateral development banks, civil society organisations including real estate groups, the climate champions network, think tanks and researchers, as well as city leaders and networks.
Its primary function and ambition is to mitigate the contribution of buildings and infrastructure to global warming through green and sustainable standards. Broader objectives identified by the conference include urban energy, urban waste, urban mobility and urban water.
The function of the initiative to address these challenges will likely require building and infrastructure owners, occupiers/users and developers to:
- utilise green building standards to signal and understand the carbon efficiency of the property
- generate and purchase green forms of energy for operations
- consider retrofits rather than demolition and new builds to reduce embodied carbon
- utilise low-carbon building materials to reduce associated embodied carbon with developments
Encouragingly, the linkage between decarbonisation and technology as a tool is clear. Not only at the building level, but also at the national and global level by the wider COP27 conference.
So, what can be done?
The World Green Building Council launched their guide to climate resilience and adaptation in the built environment recently. This provides a handbook on thinking about cities, communities and building level principles.
But what real action can be taken?
Technology has been identified as a key opportunity to accelerate decarbonisation and support the curbing and peaking of emissions before 2030. However, many nations and corporations are slow to act on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), whether that is from reluctance and associated risk-appetite, or simply from not understanding what solutions are available in the market today.
The Non-paper by the Presidency on the cover decisions was published in November 2022, stating: “If all NDCs are implemented, there is a possibility of peaking global emissions before 2030…. this depends on access to financial resources, technology and technical co-operation”.
As identified in a paper we contributed to with The Economist, a major hurdle in Australia to technology adoption and success is an understanding of how to leverage technology for sustainable outcomes.
Organisations and individuals need support to identify where technology can solve their sustainability challenges, and the solutions that are available today. Experts that understand where technology, ESG and real estate intersect are vital in supporting this industry wide transition.
We see the market evolving rapidly and technology companies are seeing decarbonisation as a new market opportunity. Technology and innovation will be one of the main pathways for curbing climate change and the 53 per cent increase in ESG related RealTech investments from 2017 to 2021 only emphasises this focus.
Below are examples of emerging global opportunities in which Taronga Ventures has invested, which offer possible solutions towards mitigating climate change:
Construction and development
- Concrete – CarbonCure, Canada
Embodied carbon is expected to account for nearly 50 per cent of the carbon footprint of new construction, with concrete responsible for 8 per cent of global emissions. As such, it is important to tackle the carbon intensity of concrete immediately. CarbonCure is one such technology doing this by injecting industrial carbon dioxide into the mix, becoming permanently embedded. This strengthens the concrete bonds and reduces the required volume of carbon intensive concrete required in the mix.
A leading Bolivian cement company has been using the CarbonCure concrete in its products throughout 2022. They have rolled the solution out to four plants and produced 129,339 square metres of concrete, resulting in a total carbon dioxide saving of 1,438 tonnes.
- Construction processes – Ampd Energy, Hong Kong
Construction sites are heavy diesel users, which in itself is incredibly carbon intensive. Ampd Energy have built a battery energy storage solution, called Enertainer, that provides surge power to construction site equipment and eliminates the need for diesel. It provides cleaner and quieter powers, and reduces the carbon intensity of construction.
In Australia, Multiplex deployed Enertainers to replace onsite diesel power generation and resulted in an 80 per cent cost saving on fuel by replacing diesel power used to power the cranes with a cleaner power alternative through the battery.
- Energy efficiency through controls – Xandar Kardian, Canada
Xandar Kardian is a company that provides sensors to detect and monitor human occupancy. Its FDA approved radar-based sensors detect nano-vibrational frequencies in the body, such as heart rate and breath rate, of individuals in a space anonymously, in real-time and contact-free. This means that when connected to a building’s control system, more accurate controls can be achieved. Ensuring we are only lighting and cooling a zone or room when it is occupied and reducing redundant energy consumption.
- Certification – WiredScore, USA
Certification is an important solution that helps us understand how one property compares against another. WiredScore assesses, certifies, and improves digital connectivity and smart technology in homes and offices on a global scale. Digital connectivity and smart buildings tend to lead to better managed assets and is a great conduit for understanding and identifying opportunities to reduce carbon intensity through better and smarter asset controls and management.
- Resilience – SPACECUBE, Australia and UK
SPACECUBE is a highly versatile semi-permanent modular building system for major events, hospitality, healthcare, or commercial infrastructure which is designed to be relocated, reused, and reconfigured. SPACECUBE enables rapid deployment of existing infrastructure that has recently played a pivotal role in urgent healthcare demands through to essential services in flood affected communities such as Lismore NSW, where SPACECUBE installed an operational temporary bank for Westpac Australia.
Technology solutions are coming to market to solve these large, significant, and weighty challenges our industry faces. Technology will no doubt be a key lever to allow rapid and effective decarbonisation of our properties, our communities, and our nations.
These themes come together to suggest that there is much more that the real estate industry can do to curb climate change more quickly. As a major contributor to carbon emissions, the industry must do this to protect the most vulnerable people globally, technology will have a major role to play in the solution.
With the theme of loss and damage being to hold the biggest emitters responsible, the built environment is not exempt.
Moving beyond commitments to actions is possible today.