Roundtable Requests Voluntary U.S. Guidelines for Climate-Resilient Buildings to Fend Off EU-Based Rules

This week, The Roundtable urged the Departments of Treasury, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop voluntary, science-based guidelines to help U.S. real estate companies align their climate-related programs with global targets. (July 16 letter)

U.S.-Specific Climate Investment Principles

  • Treasury’s principles can guide net-zero corporate commitments in the United States.
  • However, foreign organizations aim to exert significant influence over capital decisions in America’s real estate – which can leave buildings “stranded” in the eyes of some overseas investors because they do not meet “energy requirements being rolled out in Europe.” Bloomberg (June 18)
  • These market risks prompted the Roundtable’s letter requesting voluntary building “decarbonization curves” designed by the U.S. government reflecting climatic, market, and data conditions in our country.
  • Investment principles for America’s real estate “should not be the creation of the European Union,” The Roundtable states.
  • “This is a matter of global economic competitiveness for capital access,” said the Chair of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee, Anthony Malkin (Chairman and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.). “America’s buildings should not be expected to meet standards that speak to assets, laws, power grids, and regulatory environments in Europe or elsewhere.”

U.S. Energy Programs and Recommendations

Tony Malkin (Chairman and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.), chair of The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory (SPAC) Committee.
Anthony Malkin (Chairman and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust, Inc.)
  • Malkin continued, “The United States leads the world in government developed, voluntary guidelines for all types of buildings’ energy use and emissions. Agencies like US-EPA and US-DOE know the conditions of our markets, climate zones, and power grids and can help make it easier for capital to come into real estate and grow jobs and tax revenue in the United States.”
  • The Roundtable urged the U.S. government to develop building “pathways” through a robust public input process that considers the experiences of companies that own, develop, manage and finance America’s real estate.

The Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) will continue to work with the agencies and Congress to shape policies that promote cost-effective investments to optimize building energy efficiency and help the real estate sector mitigate the effects of climate change.

Administration Unveils Principles for Carbon Offset Markets

The Biden administration on Tuesday released principles to enhance the integrity and effectiveness of voluntary carbon markets (VCMs) and incentivize companies to prioritize reducing their emissions. These principles can guide real estate businesses that seek to offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. (White House fact sheet, May 28)

All-of-Government Approach

  • The principles and joint policy statement were signed by the Treasury, Energy and Agriculture Secretaries, and White House officials directing national economic and climate policy.
  • VCMs can “channel a significant amount of private capital to support the energy transition and combat climate change, with the right incentives and guard rails in place,” they wrote
  • Markets that provide credits for greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation are crucial for meeting the administration’s climate goals to cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

Focus on Market Integrity

  • The principles support carbon markets based on independently verified emissions savings. “[S]takeholders must be certain that one credit truly represents one tonne of carbon dioxide (or its equivalent) reduced or removed from the atmosphere.”
  • The principles reflect the U.S.’s intentions to play a leadership role in standardizing international carbon markets.
  • Today, VCMs are around $2 billion annually. With the potential of more private capital into climate projects through VCMs, Morgan Stanley projected that the voluntary market could grow to $100 billion by 2030. (Axios, May 28)

Relevance for CRE

  • Companies may finance GHG mitigation projects such as reforestation, carbon capture, and increasing renewable energy supplies. (WSJ, May 28)
  • These tools can help real estate and other companies offset their Scope 1 “direct” emissions, as well as controversial Scope 3 emissions from supply chain sources.
  • “Concerns about the credible use of credits (for example, to address a portion of Scope 3 emissions) must also be adequately addressed for VCMs to truly drive decarbonization.” (Joint Policy Statement, May 28)
  • Specific instruments known as Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are commonly used in U.S. markets to address Scope 2 emissions, which are generated by power plants for the electricity used by tenants and other building occupants. (US-EPA, “Offsets and RECs – What’s the Difference?”)

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) continues to work closely with the White House on climate initiatives impacting commercial real estate.