Developing a net zero strategy. As easy as crossing the road?


The 2015 Paris Agreement set a goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions globally by 2050. Since then, pledges to reach net zero emissions have appeared everywhere from governments’ economic development plans, corporate strategies and investors’ portfolio targets to the manifestos of regional authorities and city councils.

Indeed, according to a recent report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit, net zero targets cover around two-thirds of the global economy, with 21% of the world’s 2000 largest public companies already committed – although as it states, “setting long-term goals aligned with science can be an important driver of action; but without immediate action, long-term goals will remain forever out of reach.”

The pressure’s on

Reaching the UK’s net zero targets will need a huge commitment from both corporations and public sector organisations. With the UK’s 29 million homes contributing 22% of our carbon emissions and 40% of global emissions coming from commercial real estate, this is especially true for those that own property.

Hence pressure is building for commercial and residential property owners, local authorities and housebuilders to start developing and implementing effective plans and strategies so they can publish annual progress reports and be clear about the scope of activities and their commitments. But where do you start?

Creating a clear roadmap…using the Green Cross Code.

Whether you’re a social landlord, housing organisation, private landlord or commercial property owner, you need to be looking at how you can get to net zero by drawing up a plan, or roadmap – and ironically, to do that we can learn a lot from the Green Cross Code.

The Green Cross Code was originally conceived in 1970 by the National Road Safety Committee, using a highly effective and simple 6-point plan to help reduce road casualties. The six points were:

net zero strategy steps

Now, by taking similar steps, we can map out our journey to decarbonisation and net zero. Here’s how.

Steps to developing a net zero strategy

Let’s take the first two steps – THINK, coupled with STOP – to begin with. This is exactly what any leadership team should be doing right now. Meeting climate commitments isn’t a case of doing nothing, or simply carbon offsetting – there are limits on the natural resources available, so offsetting is no substitute for significant emissions cuts.

Instead, it requires you to assess, research, baseline, innovate, understand, gather data and plan ahead to get it right, right from the start. Reaching net zero will take resources, so success will depend on finding the route of least cost and least risk. That’s where THINKING comes in; identifying what activities you currently do that increase costs and could prevent you reaching net zero, and STOPPING doing them. For example, the new homes you build now might need further investment in two decades time to decarbonise them. So while new homes targets are important, they could be creating higher costs in the medium term; better to look at the specifications you currently use, and ask yourself whether they’re future-proofed.

Once you’ve formulated your plan, it can be a good idea to WAIT before acting on it. Creating a pause allows for a process of ‘testing and learning’ to ensure that when you scale up your strategy delivers the oucomes that you and your stakeholders want.  One of our clients has sensibly committed to retrofitting a property once – an obvious statement yet this relies on getting it right, right from the start.

Once you’re under way, LOOKING and LISTENING is important in future-proofing, and in aligning everyone involved to your plan, to keep abreast of continually advancing technology and accommodating changes that will inevitably occur over the next 30 years. If you’re constantly scanning for opportunities and threats, you’ll reduce the risk and could even find unforeseen benefits you’d never have thought of.

You’re not alone

Planning to reach net zero can, of course, seem like a daunting prospect; it needs everyone to rethink the way they do things to build a brighter future for us all. But the good news is, you’re not alone in creating those plans – and organisations such as NetZero can help you reach your goal quicker and more effectively.

Netzero has a wide range of expertise to help property owners develop strategic options that will improve decision making. Our innovative technology enables an evidence based approach to decarbonising properties. This is one of the ways we help you reduce the risks associated with the decarbonisation challenge. We can give you the data to drive decarbonisation, and help you meet your targets – to find out more, simply get in touch.

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