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Climate Positive, Proof Positive

Shaun Brodie • 28/07/2022
China Sustainability Climate Positive Report 2022

Selected Climate-Positive Approaches and Proof-Positive Rating and Benchmarking Systems for Sustainable Real Estate

According to an estimate by the United Nations, globally, the built environment is responsible for around 40% of energy and carbon emissions.
The built environment can reduce its emissions by going net zero, but some real estate enterprises today are looking to go climate positive, an initiative that goes above and beyond. Here, net zero carbon emissions are achieved and surpassed whereby an environmental benefit is produced by eradicating additional carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
Once the total carbon footprint is calculated, as well as what needs to be counteracted to become carbon neutral, then an additional measurement number, such as an extra 10% for example, can then be tagged on to estimate what is needed to go climate positive.
How enterprises actually achieve climate positivity can differ. Usually, however, they meet the requirements via a mixture of:
  • Improving energy efficiency
  • Shifting to renewable energy
  • Using renewable materials
  • Cutting wastage
  • Backing local production to reduce transportation emissions
  • Utilizing electric transportation
  • Investing into offsetting projects, such as reforestation, that remove CO2 from the atmosphere 
  • Purchasing carbon credits
Buildings can realize climate-positive results in a number of ways, including:
  • Choice of building location
  • Choice of building design and energy modelling
  • Usage of eco-friendly, low carbon, reused or recycled materials
  • Minimization of material and operational wastage
  • Maximization of structural efficiency
  • Use of building insulation
  • Regular maintenance of plant, machinery, sensors and devices and ensuring these systems have the latest technology
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction systems
  • Use of renewable energy
  • Use of intelligent energy management systems
  • Maximization of water use reduction
  • Reuse or renewal of the building upon current-use obsolescence
Rating and benchmarking systems that are used to positively prove how sustainable real estate is and how sustainable an enterprise is, (and if any are able to achieve a climate-positive outcome), are many. Two systems that have gained market traction recently, however, are:
  • At the enterprise level: The Task Force on Climate- Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD)
  • At the real estate level: The Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB)
The TCFD system allows enterprises to recognize and disclose climate-related risks and opportunities so as to enable informed decision-making for investors, lenders, insurers and other related participants. The use of the TCFD system will aid enterprises as they ascertain and handle transition and physical climate risks.
GRESB assesses the environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance of real assets, which include real estate. In terms of environmental issues, the rating system encourages enterprises to reduce GHG emissions, lessen wastage, and conserve water and energy.
Our report begins by considering and explaining what climate positive is and means. Secondly, our report looks at a number of selected climate-positive approaches for sustainable real estate. Thirdly, our report examines two proven rating and benchmarking systems that can go some way to help enterprises achieve their climate positive goals.

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