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Béatrice Gasser
Directeur Technique et Développement Durable
Published on November 22, 2018

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Carbon neutrality: the way forward

To curb the catastrophic effects of a changing climate, drastically and rapidly reducing our GHG emissions is an absolute priority. And yet, to know where to focus efforts, we must first establish where these emissions originate, to what extent we can reduce them and in what time frame.

- Crédits : © Andrew Ruiz on Unsplash

To act efficiently on the level of an entity, whether it be a local authority or company, it is important to have detailed knowledge of the main factors influencing greenhouse gas emissions in its perimeter. For instance, the foresight study led by Egis for Paris City Hall: “Paris, an air of change - towards carbon neutrality in 2050” highlighted the fact that a third of carbon emissions were generated by passenger mobility, a quarter by consumption (including food) and waste, and a fifth by goods transportation and a fifth by the building sector.

Reducing the carbon emissions of a community or an entity means acting not only on the design and the delivery of techniques (buildings, transport infrastructure, waste processing, transportation vehicles), but also to influence travel and consumption behaviour and patterns (homeworking, carpooling, using public transport, short retail circuits, etc.). Thus, when we refer to “smart cities”, we should not only be thinking in terms of technological intelligence, but also of intelligence in how space is arranged, reorganising functions, or reintroducing nature into cities.

What carbon footprint for projects?

Our studies show that 20% of the CO2 emissions of a building or infrastructure are generated by its construction, and 80% by its operation. Moreover, design choices can help to reduce operating emissions by 10 to 20%. The operation should therefore be approached globally, from the earliest design phases, to reduce carbon emissions at all levels. Even the slightest of efforts can be valuable, even if it appears to have little impact, and all alternatives should be considered, whatever the phase, depending on their effect on carbon emissions.

Our avenues for improvement lie in how we investigate and update – subject to the latest technological innovation – contextualised key figures, indicators and ratios that can quantify “avoided emissions” on the projects that we design, build or operate.

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