The UN Secretary-General is widely regarded as the world’s top diplomat. So António Guterres’ language at the launch of a High-Level report on Net-Zero Commitments in November spoke volumes:

Using bogus ‘net-zero’ pledges to cover up massive fossil fuel expansion is reprehensible. It is rank deception. This toxic cover-up could push our world over the climate cliff. The sham must end… Targets must be reached through real emissions cuts. Fossil fuels must be phased out and renewable energy scaled-up.

Not all ‘net-zero’ pledges are “bogus”, of course, and not all carbon ‘credits’, ‘certificates’ and ‘offsets’ are a “sham”. Unfortunately many are, but it was the concept of offsetting as much as the accounting methods that the Secretary-General was taking aim at. This concern was echoed by the authors of the 2023 Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor earlier this week:

The rapid acceleration of corporate climate pledges, combined with the fragmentation of approaches, means that it is more difficult than ever to distinguish between real climate leadership and unsubstantiated greenwashing.

It is no coincidence that the reputational and commercial value of ‘net-zero’ pledges is diminishing as the chorus of calls for ‘climate integrity’ grows louder.

What does this mean for owners and managers of real estate, particularly those that want their sincere efforts to ‘do the right thing’ to be seen for what they are?  What is a “high integrity” strategy?

The answer is to avoid polluting. It is eight years since Pope Francis put it bluntly: “The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth”, he said. As much as we might wish otherwise, there is no offset or credit to deal with filth. It must be either cleaned up or not generated in the first place. For greenhouse gas pollution, ‘cleaning up’ means sequestration – carbon capture and storage (CCS) – and experts overwhelmingly agree, CCS is not a climate solution. This leaves us with just one option: not creating the pollution in the first place.

So back to the question… the highest integrity climate action that building owners and managers can take is to do everything within their power to avoid contributing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. A Grid-interactive Efficient Building (GEB) is a building that avoids polluting energy sources by focusing on carbon efficiency rather than energy efficiency. Carbon efficiency considers both the volume of energy used and the carbon intensity of each energy unit. A GEB will therefore be all-electric and consider the carbon intensity of the electricity it uses in real-time to maximize demand for energy generated from renewable sources and avoid fossil-generated power.

We are excited to be working with numerous institutional and commercial property owners who have turned their focus to achieving 24/7 carbon free operations and will have more to say about GEBs and our decarbonization-supporting technology advances over coming months.