Since the UK committed to legally binding targets to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, businesses across the real estate sector have begun to announce their own net zero ambitions. However, to achieve a meaningful reduction in carbon emissions, those commitments must now be turned into tangible actions, and this is where we have found that the real challenge lies.
At Derwent London we have been working towards net zero carbon since setting and validating our science-based targets in 2017. Setting targets was only part of this journey and we looked at every aspect of the business to identify the changes we needed to make to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Then in October 2019 we signed the BBP’s Climate Change Commitment alongside many others in the real estate sector, and in February 2020 we announced our commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2030.
Since then we have been working to turn this commitment into action, which has culminated in the launch of our Net Zero Carbon Pathway. This outlines the detailed scope of our 2030 commitment and how we plan to get there.
From the outset we knew our priority would be to further reduce the carbon intensity of our portfolio and development pipeline. The Pathway outlines a number of ways in which we plan to do this, from mandating Design for Performance on all new major developments to identifying existing properties where we can retrofit all-electric heating and cooling systems. Reducing the energy demand of our existing portfolio is a particular challenge for us and the wider sector. If we are to achieve this we must work collaboratively with our occupiers, further increase the availability of energy data, and use this to develop our building management plans.
How we power our buildings and development projects has also been a key consideration for us. For a while now we have procured 100% of electricity from renewable sources for our managed portfolio. Moving forward we will look to increase this for the gas supplies we procure and encourage our occupiers to do the same where they manage their own energy arrangements. Our land in Scotland also provides us with opportunities for the self-generation of renewable energy which we are actively exploring.
Alongside addressing operational carbon we need to set out a plan for reducing the embodied carbon of our development pipeline. We have a good understanding of the embodied impact of the major schemes we have delivered over recent years, and we are now looking to include the cumulative impact of smaller refurbishment projects as well. Our Development team has been working closely with our Design teams to identify technologies and construction approaches that will help us further drive down embodied carbon.
The final step in our Pathway is carbon offsetting. At present this is a necessary part of achieving net zero recognising that there will be areas of residual carbon we cannot manage or eliminate. Recently we have appointed a provider to support an offsetting approach which aligns with the principles of our Pathway.
We know that the publication of our Pathway is just one of the first steps to achieving net zero across our portfolio…the hard work really does start now!