Australia’s property and construction industry now has a clear definition of carbon neutrality, and the race is on to see which company achieves Australia’s first carbon neutral portfolio.
The Australian Government’s new National Carbon Offset Standard for Buildings and the National Carbon Offset Standard for Precincts were officially launched by Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg in early October.
The standards have been developed through close collaboration between the federal Department of Environment and Energy, the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) and the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).
“Years of discussion and debate about what constitutes a carbon neutral building or precinct have been settled,” says the GBCA’s head of Market Transformation, Jorge Chapa.
“We now have clear definitions of carbon neutral buildings and precincts in operation, and voluntary standards which can help owners to demonstrate their assets meet these definitions.”
Around a quarter of Australia’s emissions come from buildings, placing them at the frontline in efforts to tackle climate change.
According to Dennis Lee, head of Technical Standards at NABERS, the drivers for carbon neutrality are broader than emissions reduction, and include cost savings, as well as demand from tenants and investors.
“NABERS-rated buildings have saved nearly half a billion dollars in energy bills since 2010 so there is certainly incentive for businesses to operate their buildings as efficiently as possible.
This new standard provides that next step for building owners and managers to demonstrate and be recognised for their sustainability credentials and journey to carbon neutrality.”
Chapa believes large tenants, such as banks, as well as real estate investment trusts, will be the first to embrace the standards.
“Large tenants already working towards carbon neutral operations across their entire businesses will be looking for buildings that align with their commitment. We now have the standards to demonstrate this,” Chapa explains.
To become carbon neutral, building owners must calculate their emissions, reduce these emissions as much as possible, and then purchase carbon offsets or carbon credits equivalent to the remaining emissions.
Importantly, carbon neutral certification does not require another layer of paperwork. Building owners can use the robust Green Star – Performance or NABERS Energy rating process to demonstrate compliance.
“With no agreed definition, the cost to demonstrate carbon neutrality was once prohibitive for all but the most committed companies. Now, we’ve made it simple for asset owners to demonstrate carbon neutrality through a cost-effective and streamlined process,” Chapa says.
“We’ve achieved broad agreement from federal and state governments, voluntary rating systems and the property industry and now have a clear definition for carbon neutrality. This is a big win – and perhaps unprecedented internationally.
“The industry can now get to work on delivering carbon neutrality. The big question is: which company will be the first to achieve a carbon neutral portfolio?” Chapa concludes.
Learn more about how to register your building or portfolio through Green Star or NABERS. The standards support the goal of a global project by the World Green Building Council, of which the Green Building Council of Australia is a member, to ensure all buildings are net zero carbon by 2050.