Tips for infrastructure projects in a Science Based Target world

Infrastructure Science Based Targets

Science Based Targets are dominating emission reductions conversations, but what are they and what do they mean for infrastructure projects?


COP21 – PARIS, Dec 2015 Recaplogo_tousensemble

  • 188 countries committed to reducing their Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs) – this represents 97.1% of global GHG emissions.
  • The 188 countries pledged to keep the global temperature increase less than 2°C by 2100. (According to research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a temperature increase of more than 2°C would lead to serious consequences, such as a greater frequency of extreme climate events.)

It’s excellent news. I’m excited about transitioning to a low-carbon or “green” economy in Australia, and all the new possibilities that will arise from this pledge. Post-COP21, Science Based Targets have been dominating emission reductions conversations. 179 global companies committed to Science Based Targets to help achieve the Paris pledge. Companies like Coca Cola, Dell, Sony, LG, Toyota, Westpac and Woolworths to name a few.

But, what are Science Based Targets?

  • Science Based Targets is a joint initiative by CDP, the UN Global Compact (UNGC), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF.
  • Targets adopted by companies to reduce GHG emissions are considered “science-based” if they are in line with the level of decarbonisation required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures, as described in the Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). [Applies to the 4th or 5th AR of IPCC as well as modelling of the IEA.]
  • Science Based Targets aims to increase corporate ambition on climate action by changing the conversation on GHG emissions-reduction target-setting.
  • The initiative also aims to demonstrate the business case for ambitious target-setting and thereby enable companies to set targets.
  • The Science Based Targets are reviewed and set by the Science Based Targets organisation and the applying company. They are determined by an individual company’s:

– Boundary (scope 1 and 2 GHGs)
– Timeframe (min. 5 years, max. 15 years)
– Level of ambition (2°C target or 1.5°C target)
– Growth (predicted growth forecasts)
– Scope 3 emissions (timeframe commitment to include Scope 3 GHG emissions)
– Reporting (commitment to annual GHG reporting)
– Recommendations (long-term goals e.g. 2050)

Click here for answers to common Science Based Targets FAQs.

What does this mean for infrastructure and property projects? 

It will become commonplace for clients, be they public or private, to have overarching science-based GHG emission-reduction targets. These targets will apply to infrastructure and property projects from construction phases to operational phases of the asset. To ensure the Science Based Targets are met over the life of an asset, projects will need to:

  • Focus on the life cycle performance early in design. That means no longer making decisions based only on construction capital costs.
  • Focus on material selections as they are locked in for the asset life. That means no longer ignoring the overall impact of materials selected.
  • Focus on operational energy and operational emission reductions early in design. That means removing the divide between the designers and operators.

Tools that can help meet these project needs include Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), which will help to accurately predict GHG emissions for an asset’s life, but can be completed early in the design stage. LCA coupled with Life Cycle Costing (LCC), will identify which GHG emission-saving initiatives will also have a financial benefit or cost to the project and will help drive smart business decisions for projects.

Where to from here?

By 2050 I envision all infrastructure projects operating as net zero carbon assets, as they will need to contribute to a zero carbon economy as a whole. This will mean significant growth in Australia for renewable energy supply for electricity dependent services and an increase in electric/battery vehicles and vehicles fuelled via biofuels. I believe all infrastructure projects need to include or source off-site renewable energy where possible, cleaning up Australia’s grid electricity and reducing our dependency on fossil fuels.

ISCA is clearly prioritising and focusing on carbon – that is a good step forward. However, could ISCA go a step further and provide assurance that IS-certified infrastructure projects meet the Science-Based Targets for infrastructure in Australia?

COP21_Science Based Targets

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