Net Zero by 2050: Finding and keeping the balance
Challenges, strategies, and existing resources that can help the industry reach this ambitious target
The ‘year zero’ is 2050, and with it the goal of decarbonisation in the EU, is approaching. The real estate sector, as one of the major players in this puzzle, must find its way and make wise choices.
Carbon-neutral Europe is a promising vision, but what does it exactly mean? And how do we get there? Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels for energy and certain industrial processes, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Transition to net-zero emission involves transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, adopting sustainable agricultural practices, and implementing technologies to capture and store emissions.
The concept of net-zero emissions is all about keeping the exact balance between the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and that which is removed or offset. Achieving net-zero emissions is a crucial goal in the global effort to mitigate climate change.
The role of the real estate sector
The real estate sector (including the construction and building operation) accounts for around 40% of carbon dioxide emissions, and next to industry and transport sectors, is the major global CO2 emitter. That is why it is put in the middle of the climate fight battle.
The market provides multiple options for real-estate companies to potentially reach zero emissions, but they must find their own way to head to a zero-carbon future, maintaining a balance between achieving ambitious goals and preserving stability and control. Additionally we are facing new regulations and solutions that bring us closer to a carbon-free reality, but still there’s much more to be done.
To achieve CO2 goals, real-estate companies must revise their management approach and detailed data-collecting policy. Measuring energy consumption, checking assets in terms of ESG, setting where they want to be, at what time, and what resources (financial, human) they have available is crucial to navigating proper transition. Keeping the balance between short-term goals and long-term goals, assessing resources with due diligence and wise allocation of these are crucial in this long-distance run.
Keeping the balance
There are multiple options available during this journey and they might be navigated in many different ways. It is crucial to set clear goals and priorities and start with the scope that could bring the difference the most sufficiently. Moreover, there is no change without engagement, so we need to involve employees, customers, investors and local communities in our sustainability efforts. Their input and support can help you strike the right balance and ensure alignment with their expectations.
When it comes to implementation of changes it is crucial to adapt incrementally as gradual changes are often more manageable and less disruptive to a business. It allows us to avoid abortive, hectic actions that can lead to resistance and instability. Wise allocation of resources facilitates the process. Often, circular economy models that focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling resources and products are the answer. At first we should always efficiently use resources that we already have, before generating new ones. Try to modernise, refurbish, and improve efficiency. This approach can minimise waste and resource consumption.
Proper change implementation needs regular track of the environmental impact through key performance indicators. This data can guide green transformation strategy, helping identify areas that need attention and measure progress. Collecting data from a portfolio is crucial to find asses at what stage of the process we are. Considering the entire life cycle of the assets and services, from production to disposal can help identify areas where to reduce environmental impact. Continuous assessment of environmental and sustainability risks based on the collected data enables to proactively address and mitigate them.
Other significant value that helps to conduct the process smoothly is transparency. Regular reporting on the progress and setbacks and open communication builds trust and relationships with stakeholders.
We should also embrace innovative technologies and practices that can significantly reduce environmental footprint. This includes renewable energy sources, energy-efficient equipment, and sustainable materials.
It is important to unite, share know-how and lessons learnt for the sake of common interest. We need to collaborate with industry peers, attend events, and stay updated on best practices. We need to be open to reassessing and adjusting green transformation strategy as new information and technologies become available and sustainability landscape is constantly evolving.
Balancing green transformation is an ongoing process that requires careful planning, adaptability, and a commitment to a sustainable future. By following these tips, sustainability can be integrated into business while keeping everyday operations financially viable and environmentally responsible.
Many industry sectors will struggle with coming changes in regulations, technology development and clients’ expectations. However, we are all going in the same direction and we not only contribute to a healthier planet but also lay the foundation for resilient, forward-thinking, and socially responsible businesses and communities. The time for green transformation is now, and the path forward demands our unwavering commitment to balance and sustainability.
To sum up, real estate & construction actions to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 are intensifying. As the EU’s decarbonisation target appears, the industry faces new regulations and challenges. To navigate this transition, real-estate companies must often rethink their management approaches and adopt new policies.
Clear goal-setting, evaluating available resources, and balancing short-term and long-term goals are fundamental. Involving stakeholders employees, customers – is essential for success and aligning efforts with expectations.
The changes that are heading towards us are challenging, but putting the efforts in them will bring us closer to a sustainable future that may bring us stability and resilience. Green transformation is happening before our eyes and it needs our hard work to come true, but success is available, especially since the real estate and construction market has many areas for further development – but this time in a sustainable way.
 M. Santamouris, K. Vasilakopoulou, Present and future energy consumption of buildings: Challenges and opportunities towards decarbonization, Advances in Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Energy, Elsevier, 2021 (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2772671121000024).