A new report from real estate services company JLL has called on cities to increase their focus on establishing the infrastructure, frameworks, laws and incentives to decarbonise buildings.
It also urges the private sector to act ahead of regulation, which JLL expects to ramp up from 2025.
The Decarbonizing Cities and Real Estate report says: “City governments are setting ambitious sustainability targets, often well ahead of national goals; yet plans to tackle the carbon emissions from buildings are frequently given insufficient attention. To deliver a holistic and effective decarbonisation plan for buildings, partnerships with landlords, investors, developers and occupiers are paramount.”
The research looks at 32 global cities and finds that real estate makes up an average of 60 percent of emissions, rising to 78 percent in London, 73 percent in Tokyo, 71 percent in Washington, DC, 70 percent in Paris and 66 percent in New York.
Carrots and sticks
Several cities, from New York and Paris to Tokyo and Singapore, have introduced targets and actions covering new and existing commercial and residential real estate. These include emissions caps, reporting and disclosure requirements, tackling embodied carbon, increasing biodiversity, and mandating on-site renewables.
However, the research warns that: “In aggregate, at the global scale, policy is lagging the science today.”
JLL says that the cities that will be most successful with building decarbonisation will be those that balance regulation, incentives, innovation and accelerators.
“Partnerships between the private-sector and local governments are critical to driving tangible progress in decarbonising the economy, particularly in the Global North where so much retrofit is required of existing building stock,” said Guy Grainger, Global Head of Sustainability Services and ESG for JLL. “If this doesn’t happen, expect local governments to introduce heavy regulation and penalties on building standards – there will be winners and losers as cities race to zero.”
The report also calls for more focus on greening energy grids – a challenge that corporates have no direct control over and one that often requires larger collaboration at the multi-city or national level.
The US city on a green building mission
In November last year, the City of Ithaca in New York approved an ambitious plan to electrify and decarbonise all 6,000 residential and commercial buildings as part of its goal to become carbon-neutral by 2030.
The city of 30,000 people is the first in the US to make such a large-scale pledge, which is forecast to cut carbon emissions by 40 percent. A consortium led by Brooklyn-based climate tech company BlocPower will lead the Energy Efficiency Retrofit and Thermal Load Electrification Program.
Low-cost loans will be offered to building owners to make the upgrades, to be paid back through the energy cost savings.
The city’s goal is to act as a “catalyst” for private investment and innovation.
Initially, adoption of green building measures will be voluntary but Luis Aguirre-Torres, Ithaca’s Director of Sustainability, told capitaltribunenews.com last year: “The legislation is coming, that’s for sure.”
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