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.

EPA Seeks Building Owners’ Input on Whole-Building Energy Data

A new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) campaign seeks to assist building owners in obtaining data from utilities on energy used by tenants in leased spaces. Stakeholders are encouraged to complete EPA’s brief Whole-Building Energy Data survey by Friday, June 7.

Access to Whole-Building Data is Critical

  • A challenge shared by owners and managers across the CRE industry is obtaining leased space energy data particularly where tenants operate under “triple-net” (NNN) leases and pay their electricity, gas, and other power bills directly to utilities.
  • Difficulties accessing whole-building energy data are acute in multifamily, offices, retail, logistics, life sciences, and any building type that leases spaces to numerous tenants.
  • Nonetheless, owners are expected to capture data on tenants’ energy use as a simple matter of proper building management, and for myriad policy and regulatory reasons such as:
  • Reports to investors and lenders, including disclosures to the US-SEC and state agencies;
  • Attaining voluntary certifications such as EPA’s ENERGY STAR and NextGen building “labels”; and
  • Qualifying for the 179D tax deduction for building retrofits enacted by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022. [Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 20, 2023 and  IRA fact sheet, July 31, 2023]

Roundtable Advocacy

  • The Roundtable supported a Jan. 18 open letter from leaders of the EPA, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Energy (DOE) to utilities and their regulatory commissions about the national importance of obtaining tenant-level consumption data.
  • The Roundtable also submitted comments to EPA on Jan. 20 that emphasized how utilities should be eligible for EPA grants to develop technologies that provide owners of multi-tenant assets with whole-building energy data.

EPA’s Campaign

  • EPA has posted online tools including a “Multitenant Buildings and Federal Incentives” fact sheet. This resource explains the importance of whole-building data to building owners (with a focus on federal funding opportunities requiring this data), as well as solutions available to utilities to provide the data.
  • More than 90% of utilities currently do not provide whole-building energy use data. (See EPA’s data access map.) The EPA campaign aims to:
  • Gather input from building owners and others on where they need this data most and why, via the survey.
  • Create resources that support building owners in engaging utilities nationwide, including a summary of the survey’s input.
  • Organize meetings between utilities and building owners in priority locations to facilitate discussion.
  • EPA will support utilities that are interested in providing the data in line with industry best practices.

EPA’s campaign will be among the topics discussed during The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Meeting on June 21 in Washington, D.C., held in conjunction with the RER’s all-member Annual Meeting on June 20.

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