The global Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment of real estate investors challenges construction and real estate companies as well as cities to set the target of carbon-neutral buildings in operation by 2030.
“Varma wants to be a forerunner in reducing the energy consumption of the properties it owns and in calling attention to building-related emissions, which play a significant role in climate change. As a major Finnish real estate investor, we have an obligation to focus efforts on reducing emissions and aiming for carbon neutrality. Achieving buildings that are zero carbon in operation calls for actions, and the goals of the commitment are in line with our own climate objectives,” says Varma’s Investment Manager, Real Estate, Johanna Haikala.
Varma’s climate goal is for the electricity and heating in its properties to be fossil-free by 2025 and 2030, respectively.
“Seven of Varma’s properties have been equipped with solar panels. In 2020, Varma began installing heat pumps in some of its residential properties, with the goal of cutting the emissions from its housing stock in half by 2023. Nearly all of Varma’s residential properties are currently using emission-free electricity,” says Haikala.
Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company is one of Finland’s largest real estate investors, with a real estate investment portfolio valued at EUR 4.6 billion at the end of March 2020. Varma provides commercial premises to companies and owns approximately 4,000 rental flats.
Buildings cause as much as one third of climate change emissions
Behind the global zero carbon commitment are significant international organisations that advocate for emissions reductions: C40 Cities, the World Green Building Council and The Climate Group.
“At the current rate of carbon emissions, the global temperature will increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius already before 2030. Buildings account for roughly one third of climate change emissions, both in Finland and globally. Therefore, representatives of the real estate industry have a major opportunity to do their part to mitigate climate change,” says Development Manager Lauri Tähtinen of Green Building Council Finland.
According to the Commitment’s definition, a net zero carbon building is highly energy efficient and powered from renewable energy sources, with any remaining carbon balance offset annually.
“Our goal is to use renewable forms of energy in our buildings, for instance wind and solar power, supplemented if necessary by emission-free purchased electricity and heating. Our aim is to reach zero carbon in line with our targets, without the need to offset the carbon emissions from our buildings’ energy consumption,” says Haikala.
The Commitment has been signed by 96 entities worldwide.
Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (internationally)
Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment in Finland (in Finnish)