Supporting integrity in offsets: new framework advocates for ‘last, but not later’ approach to offsets in the property sector

26 July 2023

The Property Council of Australia and the Green Building Council of Australia today announced the release of a new framework to enhance the environmental credibility of offsets in the property sector.

The framework identifies a limited and declining role for offsets in the property sector with a ‘last, but not later’ approach. This means that offsets should be used last in a hierarchy of measures to reduce emissions in the built environment, but that they should be implemented without delays.

Property Council National Policy Director Francesca Muskovic said the framework will help the property sector evaluate and verify the environmental integrity of carbon offsets and encourage investment that delivers reliable and durable emissions reduction.

“Sourcing quality offsets isn’t always easy and it’s increasingly important for companies to demonstrate a coherent procurement strategy with appropriate due diligence that also sets out the role offsets play as part of a credible net zero plan,” Ms. Muskovic said.

“This framework is all about supporting our sector navigate a path to sourcing high-integrity, high-quality nature-based carbon offsets, promoting their use only where elimination of emissions is unavoidable.

“The Australian property sector is recognised as a global leader when it comes to sustainability and decarbonisation, and while offsets play an important role in the net zero transition across the economy, the role of offsets in the property sector is limited and declining,” she said.

The Green Building Council of Australia Chief Impact Officer Jorge Chapa said the framework is the first to be developed for Australian industry.

“As Australian property companies continue the transition toward net zero, offsets can compensate for residual emissions until we reach a point where we can eliminate them completely,” Mr. Chapa said.

“This framework shows the steps to identify offsets with the highest environmental integrity, taking a ‘last, but not later’ approach where offsets are the final piece of the decarbonisation puzzle.

“Applying the framework principles will ensure organisations in the property sector are equipped with the tools to reliably underpin credible, high integrity net zero claims.

“The carbon offset market is fraught with complexity and can be difficult to navigate. This framework will facilitate informed decision making, while helping real estate owners to create long-term value for their properties and communities,” he said.

The principles of the framework have been designed to:

  • Facilitate consistent and transparent communication of net zero emissions strategies
  • Enable companies to document and communicate an offset strategy
  • Encourage well-functioning carbon markets with deep and liquid trade in offsets
  • Provide a platform of advocacy to government to ensure policies and regulations support
    the earliest adoption of net zero buildings.

The framework has been guided by the Oxford Principles for Net Zero Aligned Carbon Offsetting, with input from members of the Property Council of Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia, and technical specialists. It has been designed to reflect the unique nature of Australian property, energy and emissions markets, as well as the environments in which they operate.