Built Environment’s Race to Zero gains momentum in May

May witnessed positive momentum in the Built Environment sector. Increased participation, advancements in embodied carbon methodologies, policy developments, and notable events drove progress in its Race to Zero. By Climate Champions | June 12, 2023

The Built Environment sector, responsible for approximately 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions and 50% of all extracted materials, continues its race towards a more sustainable future. With the sector’s emissions and climate risk locked in for years due to the long lifespan of built assets, immediate and decisive action is crucial.

As part of our ongoing support for the sector’s goal to reach net zero emissions by 2050, the Built Environment team tracks the progress of major businesses in the Race to Zero (RTZ) campaign across four key stakeholder groups: architects/engineers, construction companies, real estate investment companies, and real estate asset managers.

As of May 2023, we have noted a slight increase in participation across all groups:

  • 49.8% of major architects/engineers by revenue have joined, up from 49% in the previous month.
  • Major construction companies showed a small uptick, with 17% of major companies by revenue joining, a 1% increase from the previous month.
  • Real estate investment companies by revenue witnessed a slight increase, with 19.5% having joined the campaign, up by 0.5% from the previous month.
  • 29.3% of major real estate asset managers by revenue have joined the campaign, marking a 0.3% increase from the previous update.

New joiners to the Race to Zero in May included Brookfield India Real Estate Trust, BXP, Olav Thon Gruppen, and Rejlers AB.

On the supply side, we’ve seen exciting advancements with the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) announcing the launch of their embodied carbon methodology (TM65) in the UAE. This guide will help designers demand embodied carbon data from suppliers in the region, promoting consistent whole-life carbon assessments of building services. Additionally, ORAÉ® has been confirmed as the lowest carbon glass on the market, setting a new standard with a reduction of 42% compared to the European baseline for clear glass.

On the demand side, WorldGBC launched its Global Policy Principles, and a new playbook calling for the adoption of circular design principles at every stage of the building lifecycle. Also, new joiners to the WorldGBC Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment in April include JTP LLP, Powerhouse, and QIC.

Policy-wise, there have been major strides in May, with New York lawmakers passing the country’s first ban on gas heating for new buildings, and Toronto becoming the first jurisdiction in North America to set embodied carbon caps on new city-owned buildings.

On the finance front, SDG-Climate Facility and UNEP FI published an assessment on physical risk management and climate adaptation finance in the MENA region. Also, IRENA’s report highlights the need for a significant increase in annual investment in building energy efficiency to align with a 1.5 scenario.


In the last month, the Built Environment sector has been active in participating in and organizing pivotal events to drive dialogue, collaboration, and action towards achieving net zero.

On 29 May, as part of the Road to COP28 NSA Activation Event organized by the Climate Champions team and Dubai Chambers, a closed-door CEO Built Environment Roundtable took place.. This marked the confirmation of a pivotal roundtable discussion among leading CEOs in the Built Environment sector. The objective of the roundtable was to bring together leaders from the real estate development and hospitality sector in the UAE to identify the necessary opportunities and challenges faced by the industry in transitioning towards a net-zero economy. Key opportunities arising from this discussion included the potential to create greater collaboration between stakeholders in the sector, improving building regulations and policies, and strengthening the business case to unlock financing. Our Built Environment team, EmiratesGBC, and Built Environment CEOs will continue these discussions and work together to come up with solutions ahead of COP28.

The EgyptGBC Conference: Net Zero International Conference, held from 26-28 May, included a pre-recorded keynote address by H.E. Razan Al Mubarak as well as a speech by Climate Champions’ Ambassador Sarah El Batouty.

Watch Razan Al Mubarak’s speech below:


Following that, the World Circular Economy Forum and the GlobalABC General Assembly convened from 30 May – 2 June, both virtually and in Helsinki, Finland. This event strengthened the link to Buildings Breakthrough and featured an opening address from Climate Champions’ Senior Advisor, Jamila Elmir and insightful panel discussions involving Built Environment Lead, Will Wild.

The Built Environment 2030 Breakthrough Outcome

The Built Environment 2030 Breakthrough Outcome page provides information and resources for anyone interested in tracking the sector’s efforts to achieve net zero. The page highlights the importance of the sector’s transition to a sustainable, low-carbon economy and provides updates on the progress being made by key stakeholders, such as major architects/engineers, construction companies, real estate investment companies, and asset managers. The page also features a list of new members who have joined the Race to Zero, along with relevant events, policy developments, case studies, and initiatives, such as Building to COP.

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