A call to unite on carbon action

A briefing note to wood product manufacturers

The purpose of this briefing note is to outline the need for Australian wood product manufacturers to take action on climate change. This note is supported by the launch of a bespoke tool and guide to help manufactures measure, monitor and reduce their carbon emissions, available on the NIFPI website.

This briefing note outlines two key steps:

1) calculating the carbon footprint of wood product manufacturing and

2) setting science-based targets to achieve carbon reductions in line with internationally agreed ambitions.

It also explores the broader context around climate change and outlines the growing importance of and demand for low-carbon suppliers and products.

Background

Photo credit: Matthew Henry from UnSplash

According to the World Green Building Council (2019), buildings account for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions. Approximately 28% of these emissions derive from operational emissions (energy needed for heating, cooling and power) and the remaining 11% from materials and construction.

In the past, sustainable building design has focused on reducing carbon emissions from its operations. However, as strategies to reduce operational emissions mature, carbon from processes to manufacture materials will be much more important. Known as embodied carbon, these emissions represent the next frontier in combatting climate change.

In fact, the World Green Building Council’s vision is that by 2030, all new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have at least 40% less embodied carbon with significant upfront carbon reduction, and all new buildings must be net zero operational carbon. By 2050, new buildings, infrastructure and renovations will have net zero embodied carbon, and all buildings, including existing buildings, must be net zero operational carbon.

The converging agenda

As the global agenda progresses, Australian industry is making strides to decarbonize the manufacturing sector, our cities and our communities.  Each of these moving parts plays an important role in building the market for low-carbon materials and solutions.

Green Star

Green Star is the leading sustainability rating tool in Australia and has driven demand for sustainable construction products for over 10 years. Since 2003, 2,500 properties, fit outs and communities have achieved a Green Star rating. Green Star has also influenced many government policies and guidelines. There are a number of existing and emerging aspects of Green Star that are relevant to wood product manufacturers including: 

  • In the current Green Star – Design & As Built tool, projects are rewarded for undertaking a lifecycle assessment that demonstrates a reduction in environmental impacts and for specifying products that have environmental product declarations and timber that has a sustainable supply chain certification.
  • The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is currently developing a major update to their suite of rating tools and will be releasing Green Star – New Building towards the end of 2020. This rating tool will have an increased focus on carbon emissions throughout a building’s lifecycle, including a new credit specifically for embodied carbon to go alongside their whole building life cycle assessment credit.
  • The GBCA is introducing a new minimum requirement that requires a building’s upfront carbon emission contribution from materials and products to be reduced and offset. To be eligible for a Green Star rating the building must emit at least 10% less carbon than a standard practice reference building. Projects will be rewarded for more significant reductions in upfront carbon, up to 40% (please note this is still in draft development).

Science-Based Targets

The Science-Based Targets (SBTs) initiative champions science-based target setting as a way of transitioning to a low-carbon economy. It is a collaboration between the CDP (previously Carbon Disclosure Project), United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute, We Mean Business and the WWF and almost 1000 companies are signed up to the SBT initiative meaning they have committed to set or set targets to reduce their carbon emissions in line with climate science and the Paris Agreement. SBTs are recognized as an international best practice way of reducing emissions and signals a credible commitment to addressing climate change.

The Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a call for action to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognise that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, social protection, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection. There are 17 goals each supported by a set of targets and one of the goals is focused on Climate Action.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s assessment of sustainability reporting, Reporting Matters, 88% of companies are reporting on steps taken to address SDG 13 on Climate Action. This includes Mondi and Stora Enso.

The Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures

The Taskforce for Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) is a voluntary set of guidance for companies to provide the financial impact of climate change to investors, lenders, insurers and other stakeholders. It considers climate-related risks and opportunities and sets out recommended disclosures across four parameters including governance, strategy, risk management and metrics and targets. Since the TCFD launched its initial recommendations in 2017, more than 240 investors with nearly $34 trillion in assets under management have committed to engage the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to strengthen their climate-related disclosures by implementing the TCFD recommendations.

Environmental Product Declarations

An Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is an independently verified and registered document that communicates transparent and comparable data about the life-cycle environmental impact of a product. This information includes contributions to climate change (carbon footprint) along with other indicators such as water and soil pollution.

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) has produced EPDs since 2015, for a range of wood and wood-based products which can be used to gain Green Star points.

Building Product Information Rating

The Building Product Information (BPI) Rating is a platform to help developers, architects and other decision makers compare building products and suppliers based on their sustainability attributes. The Rating Tool considers a wide range of criteria which includes a focus on carbon, climate and resilience. In addition to product-specific information, it includes criteria on organisation-wide sustainability activities, including whether the manufacturer organization has set SBTs and published TCFD reports.

The BPI Rating Tool will support existing rating schemes such as Green Star by making it easier for construction projects to specify and use lower-carbon, safer and sustainable products.  

An opportunity to lead

Within the ever-evolving landscape and growing demand for low-carbon solutions, the Australian wood manufacturing sector has the opportunity to lead. By undertaking a carbon footprinting exercise and setting SBTs, wood suppliers will be able to meet growing demand for low-carbon solutions and differentiate from alternative materials.

According to product sustainability and climate change experts, Edge Environment, the benefits of developing an action plan to address climate change are multifaceted.

The property industry in Australia has been a global leader in sustainability for many years, and an increasing number of organisations have, or are in the process of setting SBTs. Achieving their SBTs will require upstream and downstream value chain collaboration, of which sourcing low carbon or better construction materials is a key part of the solution. This opens up new conversations and opportunities to innovate and find new solutions for the low carbon built environment we must create.

Edge Environment CEO and founder, Jonas Bengtsson

Timberlink in the spotlight

Photo credit: Ernesta Vala from UnSplash

Global wood, fiber and timber players including Mondi and Stora Enso have published Science-Based Targets to demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and more information can be found in their respective sustainability reports.  Here in Australia, Timberlink has recently undertaken steps to measure its carbon footprint and set a SBT. Timberlink have recognised the business case for making such a commitment and now have the region’s first SBT for the sector.

Start the journey by calculating your carbon footprint

The project participants are calling on wood product manufacturers and the wider timber industry to understand their carbon footprint.

A carbon footprint documents the total greenhouse gas emissions that a company is responsible for, including its activities and its value chain. A carbon footprint provides not only a measure of “how much carbon”, but also what is driving emissions, with a view to inform strategies to reduce the company’s contribution to climate change. The inclusion of the value chain relates to the principle that companies can actively influence emissions that are beyond their direct control, for example by selecting low-carbon suppliers or renewable energy.

Once your footprint is determined, set a Science-Based Target for reduction

Photo credit: Aleksandar Radovanovic from UnSplash

The project participants are calling on wood product manufacturers and the wider timber industry to set carbon reduction targets aligned to the climate science.

Science-Based Targets (SBTs) provide companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris agreement in 2015 saw 195 of the world’s governments commit to prevent dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. This signaled an acceleration in the transition to a low carbon economy. As of early 2020, nearly 900 companies are taking action towards science-based targets, either with a verified target or a commitment to set a target. With a growing focus in embodied carbon in the construction industry, the number of commitments form the timber and building products industries are growing, with 18 companies having set or committed to SBTs.

Resources for more information

A footprint and target-setting tool is available for download on the NIFPI website, along with a guide on how to take action. Additional training webinars will also be provided and hosted by Edge Environment in mid-October.

  • Webinar 1 will focus on an overview of industry drivers and project outcomes, while
  • Webinar 2 will provide a training on how to use the carbon footprint and target-setting tool.

Please contact Maisie Auld, project manager and Head of Carbon & Climate Resilience at Edge Environment on maisie@edgeenvironment.com for more information or to get involved.

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