Less than half of Australia’s largest publicly listed property managers and developers have made commitments for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the level of action required under the Paris Agreement, a new assessment released by ClimateWorks Australia as revealed.
ClimateWorks identified that nine of the 21 largest property companies have some form of target consistent with achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050, but the majority of companies had pledges fell short of the level of cuts needed under the Paris Agreement.
The research also found that none of the companies reviewed had set targets that covered all the different sources of their emissions, and around one-in-ten of the major property firms had set no targets at all for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.
The research has been prepared by ClimateWorks Australia and the Monash Sustainable Development Institute and has been released ahead of the International Green Buildings Conference being held in New York, timed to coincide with the United Nations climate action summit.
CEO of ClimateWorks Australia, Anna Skarbek, said it was a positive sign that such a large proportion of the Australian property sector had set themselves targets for reaching zero net emissions as part of their business operations.
“Of the 21 companies assessed, nine have committed to an emissions reduction target or expressed an ambition to achieve net zero emissions before 2050 for their owned and managed assets,” Skarbek said.
“There still remains significant opportunity in the property sector for companies to strengthen their commitments to align with net zero emissions before 2050.”
“This requires targets which address the full scope of direct and indirect emissions within the company’s influence, supported by a detailed plan for their delivery. By making these public commitments to reduce emissions, the property sector can help build momentum towards achieving this goal across the entire Australian economy.”
The report forms part of a larger initiative from ClimateWorks Australia, which is in the process of developing a national tracker of emissions reduction commitments by major Australian companies, organisations and state and local governments.
ClimateWorks hopes to compile and make publicly accessible a comprehensive and standardised database of emissions reduction pledges being made under various initiatives, including RE100, the Science Based Targets Initiative, and the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment.
With several initiatives asking companies to make different kinds of emissions reduction pledges and commitments to increase use of renewable energy, it can often be challenging to understand how pledges stack up against each other and which pledges will have a meaningful impact towards climate action.
The tracker will allow the actions and pledges being made by businesses, organisations and governments to be accurately compared against the required level of action necessary to meet the Paris Agreement, and ClimateWorks hopes the initiative will encourage organisations to increase their level of climate ambition.
The most active property managers have undertaken a range of initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of shopping centres, office buildings and retirement villages, including the deployment of on-site renewable energy systems, energy efficiency measures and the retro-fitting of buildings to improve energy performance.
The analysis of the property sector published by ClimateWorks is set to be the first of a wider series examining the commitments being made by organisations across different parts of the Australian economy, with equivalent reports covering the different sectors set to follow.
Despite what may appear to be lacklustre engagement in setting emissions reduction targets, the Australian property sector is viewed as a global leader, with a significantly higher proportion of Australian property companies making ambitious emissions pledges compared to other countries.
“As was most recently demonstrated for the ninth year running through Australia’s leading position in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark, Australian real estate continues to demonstrate the ambitious commitment and action that are essential to reduce our emissions,” Green Business Council of Australia CEO Davina Rooney said.
Strong performance under energy and environmental performance standards have become an essential feature within the property sector to deliver stronger financial returns for property managers, with higher building star ratings leading to higher lease yields and higher occupancy rates compared to buildings with lower ratings.
There is a degree of self-interest in the property sector taking ambitious climate action, with estimates showing the scale of risk faced by investors due to the projected physical impacts of climate change could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
In May, the Climate Council released estimates showing that the Australian property sector could lose up to $571 billion in value due to the increased risk of floods, sea-level rise and temperature increases.