Countdown to Davos 2023: Industry leaders pledge to halve real estate emissions by 2030

Real estate emissions account for nearly 40% of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to World Economic Forum

By Preetha Banerjee
Published: Friday 13 January 2023
Photo: iStock12jav.net

Chief executives of real estate and other industries have pledged to reduce their buildings-related emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 and go Net Zero by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

This is a major step to tackle global warming as real estate emissions account for nearly 40 per cent of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions but the sector is often overlooked in decarbonisation strategies, WEF noted. 

The commitment was made days ahead of the 53rd World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that  begins January 16, 2023 in Davos, Switzerland. 

Companies that have joined the pledge include:

  • Avison Young, a Toronto-based global commercial real estate services firm
  • Edge, a global sustainable buildings developer
  • GPFI Group, a Nigerian real estate company
  • Ivanhoé Cambridge, a Canadian property management company
  • JLL, a global commercial real estate services company
  • Majid Al Futtaim Properties, a Dubai-based properties management services provider
  • Schneider Electric, a French digital automation and energy management multinational
  • Signify, a Dutch multinational lighting corporation

These companies will formulate their Net Zero buildings strategies based on WEF’s Green Buildings Principles developed in collaboration with JLL, the World Green Building Council and the Forum’s Real Estate community and released last year.

Green buildings are residential and commercial constructions that do not disturb the surrounding environment and improve the quality of ecosystems. Material and technology used in making these properties help them reduce their carbon footprint.

The WEF action plan encouraged companies to measure embodied carbon of new projects and maximise emission reductions in upcoming developments, apart from calculating the carbon footprint of the latest year’s portfolio and setting targets.

WEF also suggested driving energy optimisation across both existing assets and new developments, maximising supply of on-site renewable energy, ensure 100 per cent off-site energy is procured from renewable-backed sources.

“Engage with stakeholders with whom you have influence in your value chain to reduce scope 3 emissions,” the Green Building Principles: The Action Plan for Net-Zero Carbon Buildings had noted. 

The sector was also asked to compensate for any residual emissions by purchasing high-quality carbon offsets and engage with stakeholders to identify joint endeavours and equitably share costs and benefits of interventions.

The signatories will report progress annually as part of their public sustainability reporting and participate in a Practitioners Group to identify solutions around implementation, WEF said in a press statement January 12, 2023. 

“The industry has traditionally looked at investments in sustainability as a trade-off with other aspects like customer experience, but it’s very clear that we need to shift our mindset,” said Ahmed Galal Ismail, chief executive, Majid Al Futtaim Properties. “Sustainability is actually a trade-on and sustainable assets are more valuable.”

Getting started is often the hardest part and the principles offer a simple set of steps to do so, said Christian Ulbrich, global chief executive officer and president, JLL. “We believe it is easier to get to Net Zero in the built environment than for many companies to get to net zero in their core business and the business case is there to support action.”

By nature, real estate requires long-term thinking and so we have a duty to invest with conviction and build a legacy for future generations, said Nathalie Palladitcheff, president and chief executive, Ivanhoé Cambridge.

This year, the theme of the WEF annual meet in Davos is ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’. It will focus on energy and food crises, high inflation, industry headwinds, social vulnerabilities and geopolitical risks, in the context of intersectional global issues such as climate change and conflict. 

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