Climate Action

How green buildings support a just transition to net zero

Green plants are growing on building walls.

Buildings are one of our biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a huge challenge but also a unique opportunity, according to Liz McKeon, Head of our Climate Action portfolio.

Liz spoke on this topic at the Build Upon2 Virtual Summit, part of World Green Buildings Week in September, as well as at the ‘Driving the Change’ event from GBC Italy at Pre-COP in Milan.  “The built environment represents a ‘strategic trifecta’ in the fight to protect our planet,” she said.


The human face of climate
“First, it is one of the greatest emitting sectors in our modern economy. This means it carries a high emissions reduction opportunity.

“Second, it presents a unique systems-change opportunity. These changes are more complex and need to occur at a scale larger than any other I can think of apart from land, food and agriculture. 

“Third, buildings bring us close to the human face of climate. It is when we discuss home that we converge on the most personal area of climate change. Shelter. Family. Our place of safety, of comfort, of rest.”


Cleaner, greener and fairer
At the IKEA Foundation, a just transition to a cleaner, greener, sustainable planet is one our key priorities. As fuel prices soar, cutting emissions from buildings can not only protect the planet, but also make life fairer for the many people.

We can only make this happen if we all work together. That’s why we use our philanthropic capital to support projects that spark unprecedented collaboration. Our climate action funding strategy focuses on four areas: governance, real economy, finance and people.

Within these areas, we are pushing for change in seven ways in the built environment.

  • Shaping policy ambition

The EU Renovation Wave, which aims to cut emissions through building renovation, has set a framework and incentive structure to move with speed. We’re working with the European Climate Foundation (ECF) to make the most of this opportunity and push for the most ambitious regulations on building renovation in Europe.

Liz said: “We focus on elements with the highest potential to cut greenhouse gases. These include insulation, phasing out natural gas for heating, and reducing embedded emissions in building materials.”

  • Minimising negative policy consequences

As well as pushing for emissions reductions, we are concerned that policies should not deepen energy poverty in Europe. Creating the right governance for the European Commission’s Social Climate Fund to alleviate energy poverty is both an opportunity and a challenge. We’re also looking closely what is included in the revision of important policy documents, such as the European Emission Trading System.

  • Ensuring policy responsiveness

We are working ensure the legislators in the EU listen to and recognise the challenges of marginalised communities. “We have partnered with other donors on a project called Fair Energy Transition for All (FETA),” said Liz. “This will carry out focus groups in nine EU countries to be sure that Brussels can come closer to needs on the ground.”

  • Strengthening public administration tools

In the built environment, public procurement plays an enormous role in spending. We are partnering with the CO2 Performance Ladder, a green public procurement best practice approach in the Netherlands, to leverage public sector’s buying power in other countries.

  • Advocating for sector wide collaboration

We’re supporting the World Green Building Council’s BuildingLife campaign. This brings together market players to adopt whole life zero-carbon targets for buildings and create roadmaps to get there. The campaign also educates professionals to use common standards to calculate emissions and supports investors to include embedded emissions in their decisions.

  • Promoting a race to the top in corporate transition

We’re working with We Mean Business and the Science Based Targets initiative to decarbonise the built environment. We Mean Business helps companies understand their full supply chain emissions and set science-based targets. “This encourages frontrunning companies in the built environment to lead by example on reducing their own emissions and those in their supply chain,” said Liz.

  • Building tools for accountability

We invest in ways to monitor change. One example is the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF).Thisenables financial institutions to account for and reduce their financed emissions, including those from buildings. 

Green housing for the many people
Setting timetables to halve emissions from materials and methods used in construction and building renovation offers a tangible way to develop green housing solutions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These solutions will not only help protect our planet but will also create a better life for the many people who live on it, now and in the future.

More information: www.worldgbc.org