Investors call on construction material companies to commit to net zero emissions by 2050

Brick, Stone, Blocks, Building Material, Construction

With the construction materials sector exposed to significant transition and physical risk resulting from climate change, the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) recent paper, Investor Expectations of Companies in the Construction Materials Sectoroutlines the steps that investors expect companies to take to manage climate risks and accelerate action to decarbonise in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The guide is endorsed by other investor networks that make up the Global Investor Coalition of Climate Change, and was developed in line with the goals of Climate Action 100+ in order to inform investor engagement with construction material firms on the initiative’s global list of 161 focus companies.

Investors supporting the Climate Action 100+ initiative expect construction material companies to make commitments in respect of

  • Implement a strong governance framework which clearly articulates the board’s accountability and oversight of climate change risk and opportunities.
  • Take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across their value chain, consistent with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Provide enhanced corporate disclosure in line with the final recommendations of the TCFD5 and, when applicable, sector-specific Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change Investor Expectations on Climate Change to enable investors to assess the robustness of companies’ business plans against a range of climate scenarios, including well below 2°C and improve investment decision-making.

Climate change risk is especially acute for companies that manufacture cement. As the most widely used construction material globally, cement is the source of 7 percent of global man-made carbon dioxide emissions. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest global emitter, behind only China and the US.

RE:Sources

Declare is a construction materials transparency disclosure programme.

The Living Product Challenge is a climate responsible framework certification programme for manufacturers to create products that are healthy, inspirational and regenerative, giving back to the environment and people. https://living-future.org/lpc/

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), is the European forum for investor collaboration on climate actionand the voice of investors taking action for a prosperous, low carbon, future. 

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Smart material reuse and sustainability innovations reduce construction and operation carbon.

Smart material reuse and sustainability innovations at British Land development will reduce carbon in construction and operation by 33% …

British Land Development at 1 Triton Square works closely with design teams and contractor to retain much of the original building. Smart material reuse and sustainability innovations mean that the building will produce 33% less carbon in construction and operation than best practice new build equivalents – a reduction of 35,600 tonnes of CO2e.

This saving is greater than the building’s operational emissions over the next 20 years and it exceeds the ambitious carbon reduction targets required to meet the UK’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. It’s equivalent to the emissions from heating and powering 8,800 UK homes for a year. High efficiency equipment, low-carbon materials and a circular approach to waste are all part of our BREEAM Outstanding sustainability plans for 1 Triton Square.

https://www.britishland.com/sustainability/strategy/sustainable-development

Part of a Fairsnape Climate Emergency Solutions series

XR: The Extinction Symbol, Business and the Built Environment

The current use of the extinction symbol by Extinction Rebellion, is establishing the symbol as the image of climate breakdown akin to the (CND) peace symbol. In addition, the vision, messages and demands from Extinction Rebellion, (echoed by Greta Thunberg, the SchoolsStrike4Climate and David Attenborough’s BBC Climate Change: The Facts) is resonating with business and the built environment sector. And as I mentioned in a tweet this morning – XR has done more for climate change, climate breakdown awareness than the sustainability movement has done, with (as the Guardian reported) Support for Extinction Rebellion in the UK has quadrupled in the past nine days as public concern about the scale of the ecological crisis grows.

The symbol represents extinction. The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species. The world is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and this symbol is intended to help raise awareness of the urgent need for change in order to address this crisis. Estimates are that somewhere between 30,000 and 140,000 species are becoming extinct every year in what scientists have named the Holocene, or Sixth Mass Extinction. This ongoing process of destruction is being caused by the impact of human activity. Within the next few decades approximately 50% of all species that now exist will have become extinct. Such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity is highly likely to cause widespread ecosystem collapse and consequently render the planet uninhabitable for humans.

https://www.extinctionsymbol.info

Although aimed at the Government, we can learn from XR – their demands are very closely aligned to those seeking a regenerative built environment

Extinction Rebellion ‘Demands’:

1 ACKNOWLEDGE: tell the truth by acknowledging and declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with others to communicate the urgency for change

2 ACT: Act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025

3 COLLABORATE: create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.

The recognition that the XR movement is ‘on to something’ is being recognised by business and the built environment – see for example An Open Letter to Business Supporters of Extinction Rebellion by Jim Bendell and It’s time to dump Earth Day and join the Extinction Rebellion by Lloyd Alter

We believed that we had time and techniques to reform this capitalist system towards something sustainable. It was a wonderful idea at the time, and even got its swansong with international agreement of sustainable development goals

Jem Bendell

Decarbonization by 2025 is a very tough goal, but …we have met tough goals before. We won’t get there by looking at bird photos and picking up litter on Earth Day once a year

Lloyd Alter

This mornings twitter conversation …

Neil Swift @NeilGSwift  Construction one of the biggest emitters XRconstruction could do good business?@invisiblstudio @FCBStudios @ArchitypeUK @fairsnape interested in your thoughts?

Martin Brown @fairsnape Indeed @NeilGSwift current activity @GretaThunberg @ExtinctionR #DavidAttenborough has done more to raise #ClimateBreakdown awareness than built environment sector has ever done, despite our products being (40%) of problem. We need a #XConstruction mindset urgently

Where to start? … ‘tell the truth’, … acknowledge a #ClimateEmergency exists and our built environment role .. and set zero carbon targets for 2025,

Martin Brown @fairsnape At the moment we are on track to fail our own industry strategy target carbon reduction 50% by 2025 … how will we explain that to next gen? #XConstruction

Whether you agree with Extinction Rebellion approach, or not, we need all means, advocates, media and approaches to raise awareness, tell the truth and starting acting.

USE OF EXTINCTION SYMBOL: No extinction symbol merchandise exists, and it never will do. The free use of the extinction symbol by individuals in their personal artwork or other forms of expression is strongly welcomed and encouraged, but any form of commercial use of the symbol is completely against its ethos and should therefore be refrained from. To reiterate, please do not use the symbol on any items that will be sold, or for any other fundraising purposes. There are no exceptions to this policy.

Recent Reading …

This is the first in a regular series covering pieces I have been reading online that I think are worthy of further sharing. Followers on twitter, linkedin and to a lesser degree on Instgram will be aware that I regularly share items relating to sustainability, the built environment and our relationship with the outdoors and nature. However posts there can be flitting and often difficult to track down and return to. They will hopefully have a longer life here.

Articles, papers and images that catch my eye, or as a result of a search I move into my ever growing Instapaper (and occasionally Evernote) Library. This enables me to read offline, and importantly to keep and or return to for reference: here are a few recents:

Sustainability

Patagonia is in business to save our home planet  For the past 45 years, Patagonia has been a business at the cutting edge of environmental activism, sustainable supply chains, and advocacy for public lands and the outdoors. Its mission has long been “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”But for Yvon Chouinard, that’s not enough. So this week, the 80-year-old company founder and Marcario informed employees that the company’s mission statement has changed to something more direct, urgent, and crystal clear: “Patagonia is in business to save our home planet.”

Chasing the Sun by Linda Geddes review – why we don’t get enough natural light. Guardian review of Linda Geddes book exploring the importance of sunlight and circadian rhythms for our wellbeing. Chasing the sun is an interesting insight to add to the current interest in biophilia thinking.

Ten lessons for embedding sustainability across the business Sue Garrard, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Senior associate and Unilever’s former EVP Sustainable Business, was responsible for leading and embedding the company’s ambitious USLP (the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan) into the business and ensuring progress against its 70-plus time bound targets. Here she provides 10 lessons for embedding sustainability across the business.

To get to a circular economy we have to change not just the cup, but the culture. Lloyd Alter explores the circular economy in the ‘coffee delivery system’ from the CE 3 principles (to Design out waste and pollution, to Keep products and materials in use, and to Regenerate Natural Systems)


Image food for thought: Disturbing images like this emphasis the need for urgency in our sustainability actions. The Pastoruri glacier, part of the Cordillera Blanca.

Built Environment

Net Gain: A developer’s commitment to enhancing biodiversity. Natural England blog from Louise Clarke, Head of Sustainable Places at Berkeley Group, outlining the organisation’s approach to biodiversity net gain

Manchester commits to making all new buildings ‘net-zero’ by 2028. Edie Article: The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has pledged to ensure that all new buildings erected in the city region will be ‘net-zero’ carbon by 2028

Concrete responsible for 8 per cent of all CO2 emissions. Research by the think tank Chatham House underlines the need for drastic changes in the production and use of concrete, the world’s most used man-made material, because of the way in which cement is made.

Outdoors / Nature

Plantwatch: is sphagnum the most underrated plant on Earth? Sphagnum is probably the most underrated plant on Earth. This humble little moss makes up the bulk of our peat bogs and holds up to 20 times its weight in water. That makes boglands huge sponges that store water, slowing its flow and helping prevent flooding downstream.

What I’ve Been Reading Online Recently. Chris Townsend’s blog that inspired this approach to reshaping what I have been reading.

Image food for thought: Human Modification v Ecological Integrity. Shared at #Rewilding2019

The Search for England’s Forgotten Footpaths.  Article by Sam Knight in The New Yorker on our English footpaths “The Countryside and Rights of Way Act created a new “right to roam” on common land, opening up three million acres of mountains and moor, heath and down, to cyclists, climbers, and dog walkers. It also set an ambitious goal: to record every public path crisscrossing England and Wales by January 1, 2026”

Carbon is not the enemy …

From my series of Specifi blog posts that pick up on discussions following my presentations there … 

At the Cardiff Design event, slides and comments on rethinking and reimagining carbon carbon prompted much conversation over the networking drinks. 

If we are to address climate change, avoid climate breakdown, cap global temperature increase to 1.5 and to face up to the IPCC 2018 Report warnings, then only reducing carbon from buildings and construction will not be enough, we need to think different think bigger, think regenerative.

Reimagining Carbon in the Built Environment

And, so, if we are to make sustainability really attractive we have to balance the challenge of reversing global warming and, simultaneously, deliver economic prosperity for our sector and those that use our buildings

We have the tools, thinking and approaches to create buildings that are regenerative, to function as trees, to function as energy generators, and as carbon sequesters. Buildings that are part of the solution not the problem.

Imagine our buildings self-generating heating and cooling, or create it using power from renewable sources that are connected to a smart grid to optimise energy use.

Our buildings themselves are constructed from materials that take carbon dioxide from the air and lock it up for decades, even centuries, (250 years in the case of the Bullitt Center that features in my presentations).

Within this new built environment are living, biodiverse ecosystems, used for food production, recreation, water filtration, temperature control, and importantly our health, which draw carbon from the atmosphere down into the soil, and living eco systems.

Reimagining our sectors Carbon Footprint

Following the specify Cardiff event, I flew out to Vilnius in Lithuania to present a keynote at the Lithuanian Green Build Council Conference. It is extremely encouraging that the same conversations are taking place across Europe with built environment architects, contractors, engineers, facilities managers, product manufacturers and investors

We are starting to rethink sustainability, moving from just ‘sustaining’ to ‘thriving’ and embracing the new normal.

Reference Source: Carbon is Not the Enemy. 2016. Nature

Pushing beyond Paris

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The UN Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) meets in San Francisco, California from 12-14 September 2018, and in addition to the physical meeting, actors around the world are invited to participate by demonstrating the depth and range of climate action in their sectors and geographies to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

This raises the question what have we done in the (business, regional, national and global) built environment to contribute to the Paris Change Agreement. The ILFI through Living Building Challenge is one of the few building standards that seek to meet the Paris Agreement, and One Planet Living through its alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Yet we no longer have the luxury of only less bad is not good enough and as is becoming increasingly obvious, meeting the Paris targets may not be enough, and ‘good’ is now looking way beyond the 1.5 DegC aspirational targets.

The UK Construction 2025 Vision, launched in 2013, set a target of 50% reductions in built environment carbon emissions by 2025. Indications are that we are far from achieving this. (A 2015 BRE analysis showed that BREEAM assessed buildings achieve an average 22% reduction in CO2 emissions). We only have a handful of projects setting real carbon reduction targets. Yet we know we will have to improve on the 50% and get to 80 percent by 2033 if we are to meet the 1.5 degree target .

Better technology and design alone will not get us there without a shift towards a worldview thinking, that embraces regenerative system approaches, and sees the built environment within the context of wider ecological systems.

The California Summit is focused on taking ambition to the next level through five key issue areas: healthy energy systems, inclusive economic growth, sustainable communities, land and ocean stewardship and transformative climate investments.

All of the five key issues areas are built environment related, with the sector being a contributor to the problem, but can also deliver a significant solution, particular so on the sustainable communities challenge:

The sustainable communities challenge is an effort led by cities to create buildings, communities and infrastructure that are clean, healthy, and livable. Cities can encourage community driven climate projects, a transition to net zero carbon buildings through the World Green Buildings Council and a progression towards zero waste.

Healthy energy systems can prevent dangerous effects from climate change. They can be achieved through a shift toward clean and equitable energy in addition to building a decarbonized energy and transportation system aligned with scientifically founded action requirements.

  • Action you can take: Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and make electric transport the new normal by 2030 by joining the EV100 initiative.

Inclusive economic growth requires climate leadership in business, clean technology, and an energy transition that fosters good jobs while spurring inclusive global economic development.

Land and ocean stewardship focuses on the role that forests, food, lands and other ecosystems must play in mitigating climate change and making our world more resilient, while also ensuring sufficient food supplies for a growing population. This climate action pathway requires support of sustainable food systems, conservation of resilient landscapes that deliver climate solutions, technical and financial support for new stewardship projects, and transparency, engagement, and investment from industry actors.

  • Action you can take: Implementing climate friendly land use, conservation, and agriculture policies. The 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge’s goals is to achieve 30% of climate solutions by 2030 through improved agricultural and land use practices.

Transformative climate investments will require the mobilization of investment on an unprecedented scale to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Investors, considering their financial duties to clients and beneficiaries, are encouraged to act in one or more of the following four areas: Investment, corporate engagement, investor disclosure, and policy advocacy.

  • Action you can take: Commit to the use of green bonds for infrastructure investment and ask investors to invest in them. The Green Bond Pledge coordinated in part by Ceres is an initiative you can join.

Lastly, if you wish to inspire others who may wish to participate in the Global Climate Action Summit challenges, you can:

  1. Encourage your firm or community to find ways to take part in one of the five key climate action challenges.
  2. Share this video with your colleagues and business network so that they can also join the movement in raising global climate ambition.
  3. Follow the action on social media through the UNFCCC and the Global Climate Action Summit accounts:

 

Source: https://unfccc.int/news/rise-to-meet-the-global-climate-action-summit-challenges

 

Planting Trees to balance Construction Carbons

We often asked by Constructco2 users, can we offset by planting trees on site and if so how much carbon is ‘offset’? The response can be complicated – but that’s not a reason not to balance construction carbon emissions through increasing living carbon in trees and other living eco systems. 

Before diving in to the role of trees within managing construction CO2 – we need to understand current carbon footprint thinking – so take a look at this fairsnape blog post – Carbon Is Not The Enemy – on why we need to balance the Fugitive Carbon with Durable and Living Carbons 

Trees and Carbon

The answer is not at all straight forward and publications / papers / articles found on the internet do not agree. However, the amount of carbon stored by a tree depends on its size, and age: young trees will absorb carbon dioxide quickly while they are growing, but as a tree ages a steady state would eventually be reached. At this point the amount of carbon absorbed through photosynthesis is equal to that lost through respiration and decay.

Ecometrica study found a one tonne carbon tree locks up around 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

A tree can absorb as much as 24kg of carbon dioxide per year and could potential sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.

On average, each National Forest tree will sequester 79kg of carbon, equivalent to 290kg of carbon dioxide, over an 80 year period of growth.

A recent study carried out at Kielder Forest has calculated that the Forest’s 150 million trees lock up 82,000 tonnes of carbon* annually. This means that as a rough estimate each tree at Kielder is locking up 0.546 kg of carbon per year.

It is better to offset in forests rather than individual trees asm within the UK, forest soils contain around four times as much carbon as the trees.

CO2 is absorbed from the atmosphere by trees during their growth through photosynthesis. The carbon element of the CO2 absorbed remains locked into the timber until its End of Life. The sequestered carbon should though only be considered a benefit in the scope of (any) carbon assessment when the timber is sustainably sourced – certified by FSC, PEFC or equivalent. This is to ensure that any trees felled are being substituted with a minimum of the same number of trees planted and therefore not contributing to deforestation and not compromising the overall carbon- absorbing capacity of woodlands.

Understanding definitions. The language used when talking about carbon in trees and other eco systems is important. 

Biogenic carbon. The carbon sequestered in timber or other bio-based materials.If we are concerned with using trees to offset our construction carbon emissions then we need to address the tree’s sequestration and storage of CO2.

Sequestration The natural process removing (ie seizing) CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it within biological material.

Sink  A carbon ‘sink’ is where there is a net transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to the (tree/forest)  A forest only remains a sink while its carbon stock continues to increase.

Store Wood products are a store of carbon, as they themselves do not capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but keep it locked up throughout their lifetime

 
The most important point is that offsetting – whether through tree planting or not – should not be the first consideration; reducing emissions should always be the main objective.
 
 

Perhaps value engineering to increase materials that have a high carbon store (eg timber) in lieu of materials that have a high embedded carbon footprint through processing (eg concrete) may prove a more viable carbon option.

Importance of locking carbon into long lived, circular economy based, timber products … 

When a tree dies the carbon that is stored in its biomass is either released to the atmosphere or added to the carbon in the soil through decomposition. The rate that carbon is released back to the atmosphere can be controlled by reducing the rate of decomposition, for example by using timber to create long-lived wood products. However, eventually most of the carbon sequestered by the tree will be returned to the atmosphere where each tonne of carbon will be converted to about 3.67 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

More than just Carbon

UK woodland, especially native species, in addition to providing the habitat for our incredible natural biodiversity, provide a wide range of “ecosystem services” such as the control and condition of water supplies, mitigation of surface water flooding, provision of shade, shelter, control of pollution.  Woodland plays a far greater role in the move to a low carbon economy than simple carbon sequestration by trees.

ConstructCO2 Guidance

  1. If planting (additional) trees on site obtain a carbon figure from the projects ecologist or landscape architect. (ConstructCO2 can arrange one for you). You cannot count the landscape design as offset for your construction emissions.
  2. A very rough figure for guidance, for each additional young tree planted on the project 1kg CO2 per month that the tree will be growing.
  3. Consider and promote the regenerative benefits of trees, which will be far greater than simply carbon offsets.
  4. If looking to offset your construction CO2 through tree planting offsets – use a certified organisation and ensure that the offset is an additional measure, and not counted elsewhere.
  5. Consider offsetting to schemes that protect, enhance soils and bring peat bogs and moss lands back into healthy, carbon sequestration eco systems. This can be a higher co2 sequestration than trees.
  6. Consider increasing project materials with a high carbon store – locking greater levels of carbon into the building through sustainability focused value engineering.

Tree Facts

  1. A single tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 12kg per year.
  2. Trees act as natural pollution filters by absorbing pollutants through the stomates in leaf surfaces.
  3. Trees lower temperature by transpiring water and shading surfaces.
  4. Trees reduce heat sinks.
  5. Trees reduce erosion.
  6. An acre of trees absorbs enough CO2 over one year to equal the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles.
  7. Trees provide food and wildlife habitats.
  8. Planting trees remains one of the cheapest, most effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere.
  9. Trees recharge ground water and sustain stream flow.
  10. One large tree strategically placed can replace 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours per day.

Sources