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Major Climate Body Pilots Scheme To Help Real Estate Firms Hit Emissions Goals

Urban Partners' Elisabeth Hermann Frederiksen

One of the largest organisations in the world dedicated to combatting global heating is piloting a set of guidelines aimed at helping real estate firms cut emissions fast enough to save the planet. 

The Science Based Targets initiative has picked 15 real estate companies from around the world to test its Buildings Science-Based Target-Setting Guidance and Tool, which will assess the performance of target-setting methodologies, tools and guidance for companies in the building sector.

The guidance intends to help companies meet the goal of the Paris Agreement — cutting global temperatures by 1.5°C — through emissions accounting and reporting as well as target setting and validation. The measure is aimed at reducing the nearly 40% of emissions globally produced by the real estate industry. 

Firms selected include Copenhagen-based investment platform Urban Partners and Finnish firm CapMan. Real estate companies on the expert advisory group that devised the pilot include Simon Property Group, APG, Mitsubishi Estate and Swire Properties.

Over the last year, Urban Partners has worked to establish a greenhouse gas emissions measurement and target-setting framework based on the SBTi’s draft, published in May 2023. 

After being selected to pilot the industry guidelines, Urban Partners will share its datasets and actively engage in identifying possible amendments to be made to SBTi’s resources. The company has assets under management of €21B ($23B, £18B) and has four divisions, including fund manager Nrep, which manages a portfolio totalling more than 80M SF.

Initiatives across Nrep’s real estate portfolio to reduce operational and embodied emissions include exploring ways of increasing the use of low-carbon materials in construction and a recent doubling of on-site renewable energy production.

Nrep design-stage life cycle assessments are conducted for every new development project, and 92% of the portfolio’s buildings already have decarbonisation plans in place. The firm’s commitment to improving emissions, data quality and coverage has resulted in collecting real-time utility meter data for around two-thirds of its buildings. 

SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and the We Mean Business Coalition. The SBTi’s goal is to enable companies worldwide to do what climate science requires of the global economy: halving emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero before 2050.

The 15 companies in the pilot were selected to ensure a diverse range of companies by region, intended user type, emissions profile and business size. The pool is expected to act in an informative capacity to the SBTi by testing the guidance using real-world data during the development of the project.

“There is a steep but imperative learning curve that needs to take place within companies to properly comprehend the climate emergency,” Urban Partners Head of Sustainability Elisabeth Hermann Frederiksen said in a statement. “We encourage real estate companies, urban developers, city leaders and other stakeholders around the world to join us as we support efforts to scale up science-driven initiatives, such as this one from the SBTi.”

In addition to being selected to support SBTi’s framework development during the pilot, Urban Partners plans to align its current decarbonisation ambitions for the Nrep portfolio to Science-Based Targets, based on the upcoming SBTi Buildings Science-Based Target-Setting Guidance and Tool.

“The gap between industry performance and where we need to be in order to meet the 1.5° target in the Paris Agreement is growing, and crucial to act on,” Urban Partners co-CEO Jens Stender said in a statement. “Collective participation in green frameworks, such as this market leading initiative from the SBTi, is already moving the dial and has the potential to get us back on track.”