‘Last but not later’: new framework identifies declining role of carbon offsets in property

by Sophie Berrill
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carbon offsets

The Property Council and Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) have released a framework to help the property sector verify the environmental integrity of carbon offsets, approaching offsets as the final piece of the decarbonisation puzzle. 

‘Carbon Offsets: Last but not later’ identifies a limited and declining role for offsets in the property sector. According to the framework, offsets should be used last in a hierarchy of measures to reduce emissions in the built environment, but they should still be implemented without delays – and their quality investigated. 

“Sourcing quality offsets isn’t always easy and it’s increasingly important for companies to demonstrate a coherent procurement strategy with appropriate due diligence that also sets out the role offsets play as part of a credible net-zero plan,” explains Property Council National policy director Francesca Muskovic. 

“This framework is all about supporting our sector [to] navigate a path to sourcing high-integrity, high-quality nature-based carbon offsets, promoting their use only where elimination of emissions is unavoidable.”

Navigating a “fraught” carbon offsets market

The carbon offset market is “fraught with complexity” and can be “difficult to navigate”, says GBCA’s chief impact officer Jorge Chapa. 

As the first of its kind to be developed for Australian industry, the framework aims to facilitate informed decision making. Chapa says it will also help real estate owners create long-term value for their properties and communities.

“As Australian property companies continue the transition toward net zero, offsets can compensate for residual emissions until we reach a point where we can eliminate them completely,” he says.

“This framework shows the steps to identify offsets with the highest environmental integrity, taking a ‘last, but not later’ approach.”

Guided by the Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting, the framework principles have been designed to: 

  • facilitate consistent and transparent communication of net-zero emissions strategies 
  • enable companies to document and communicate an offset strategy 
  • encourage well-functioning carbon markets with deep and liquid trade in offset, and
  • provide a platform of advocacy to government to ensure policies and regulations support the earliest adoption of net-zero buildings. 

The framework won’t help readers find the “perfect offset”, as Property Council CEO Mike Zorbas recognises one likely doesn’t exist.

“As our understanding of this complex area grows, we must also recognise that the perfect offset probably isn’t available, and may never be, so the best path is to identify those offsets with the highest environmental integrity,” he says.

‘Carbon offsets, Last but not later’ can be downloaded here.

Read about how Charter Hall broke GBCA’s Green Star record. 

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