One third of global CO2 emissions relate to real estate. This statistic isn’t a stick with which to beat ourselves but a huge opportunity to make a real impact by working together for a common good.

This week the Science Based Targets Initiative has launched a consultation on draft guidance for the building sector – critical to any organisation involved in construction, design, development, asset management and investment, demolition and everything in between.  The idea, put very simply, is to provide the right ways to measure and reduce each company’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In commercial terms, it sets out what you need to do in order to satisfy investors, planners, tenants, suppliers and of course, people and ultimately the planet. It considers the challenges of working, both at the building level – how does any single development measure up – as well as at the company level (can you offset one estate against another…?). It also confronts the central challenge, unique to the sector, that 80% of the buildings that will exist in 2050 (only 17 years away) have been built – so retrofit is vital – as is swift action. The real estate sector is not known for its pace or agility (for good reason, project lifecycles can often be measured in decades) which is all the more reason to get serious now by better understanding the targets, standards and challenges.

Of course, the task ahead is momentous and complex but on that scale there are solutions. In the UK, the public sector holds a significant property portfolio and is already leading the charge with large-scale retrofit programmes and decarbonised energy networks. ESG investing criteria and pressure from planning authorities, and their voting constituents, are also adding urgency and accountability into the mix. This pressure is felt throughout the supply chain.

There are as ever thought and action leaders in the field as well as those who are looking for more guidance and others who will wait to be told. A good first question is where your organisation sits in this spectrum and whether that’s where you want it to stay.