Move Past Targets into Actual Progress with Net Zero Carbon Emissions

The history and acceptance of climate change and global warming is complex. In 2015 (only six years ago), we witnessed senators throwing snowballs to exaggerate that global warming was just a hoax. Back then, we were still discussing the validity of climate change and whether or not it was even “real.” It’s the end of 2021 and we are finally past arguing whether or not climate change or global warming is legitimate. Instead, we have reached consensus that progressive mitigation is necessary to avoid too much collateral damage to our world. As a first step, we started setting net zero emissions targets.

COP26, the largest gathering of global leaders to discuss climate change, recently ended. As an outcome of that event, we saw 139 countries make a net zero emissions target (which is a fairly astounding jump from where we were less than a decade ago). However, now that we have agreed on targets, we are faced with our next step: actually mitigating climate change.

Mitigating climate change is a daunting task. For organizations that want to contribute to solutions, setting targets is a first step on the path to reducing carbon emissions. Depending on the organization, these targets are set by different people, for different reasons, and with varying ambitions. Typically, we see a CEO or board of directors responding to a competitor, or courting a potential investor, or mimicking a local or state reduction target. Whatever the reason, these companies commit to a carbon emissions reduction goal, and yet we are still designing, building and operating buildings that are emitting carbon. It’s clear there is a disconnect – but why?

Pikes Peak Summit Complex Visitor’s Center

We need local and state governments to have building codes that reflect the urgency of these looming reduction target dates; as well as owners, developers, and investors pushing their design and construction teams to build net zero energy buildings. Yet, it is often the design community making the push and being turned down. This reversal of urgency is unfortunately due to cost – often we see net zero energy goals pushed aside because the dollars do not add up. But at what cost to the climate and our planet? These “climate target” dates are coming!

As an example, how will Colorado get to 80% reduction in greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 if the schools, libraries, hospitals, offices and apartment buildings we are designing today are not making progress towards that reduction?  By the time a project that is in design today is fully operational, it will be 2025 – a mere five years away from the 2030 commitment.

We need to translate organizational-wide carbon reduction targets into net zero carbon buildings today. Short-term goals are coming up quickly (2025 and 2030 do not feel far away anymore!).

Here are recommendations for achieving these targets in your building(s):

(Learn More about Operational and Embodied Carbon)


Climate change will not be mitigated or controlled by simply setting goals. We must measure, track and ultimately change the way we design, construct and operate buildings if we truly want to avoid massive damage to our ecological well-being. 2030 is just around the corner. Do you have aggressive goals in place? But more importantly, do you have a realistic plan to reach your goals?