Washington, D.C.

CBRE Report: Washington, D.C., Among North American Cities Best Positioned to Withstand Climate Change Impacts

Washington, D.C., stands out for its energy efficiency initiatives, increasing use of renewable energy and green building stock

September 13, 2023

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Ashley Houk

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Washington, D.C., has emerged as a leader in climate change resilience by investing in and implementing sustainability measures, improving its ability to protect property values and attract real estate occupiers amid climate risks, according to a new analysis from CBRE.

In its first North American City Sustainability Study, CBRE Econometric Advisors assessed climate change resilience across three categories: transition risk, physical climate risk, and mitigation and adaptation measures. The study evaluated cities’ emissions-reduction targets, policy and regulations, cost of retrofitting properties, vulnerability to climate change and climate-related disasters, green building stock, green financing and other factors.

Besides Washington, D.C., other major North American cities that are similarly well positioned include Austin, Boston, Denver, Montreal, New York, Ottawa, San Francisco, Toronto and Winnipeg.

These cities have all pledged to be carbon neutral or achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 (some earlier) and have increased their use of renewable energy over the past five years. Washington, D.C., has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2045 and implemented several initiatives to increase building energy efficiency and sustainable development practices. The city continues to be challenged by worsening air pollution but has a green-bond program to fund climate-related projects. Washington, D.C., also performed well for its green building stock, with 44% of the city’s commercial buildings LEED certified.

“The cities that take the lead on sustainability today will have a competitive edge as the economy shifts to a low carbon, more sustainable future. With over 50% of the world’s population living in cities, cities will be critical in driving sustainability and helping communities adapt to climate risks,” said Rob Bernard, chief sustainability officer, CBRE.

Commercial buildings have the potential to play a large role in cities’ ability to achieve their carbon reduction targets. Buildings account for 39% of energy-related carbon emissions worldwide, including 28% from operational emissions (energy to heat, cool and power them) and 11% from materials and construction (World Green Building Council, 2019).

Reducing GHG emissions is a growing priority for real estate investors and occupiers. Nearly 70% of the more than 500 commercial real estate professionals participating in a 2022 CBRE global survey cited reducing GHG emissions as a top organization goal.

“The transition to a low carbon future is increasing the complexity of real estate decision making. Occupiers and investors have a host of new factors and costs to consider, including new regulations. Cities that show climate resilience will attract more occupiers looking to meet their own decarbonization goals and are likely to benefit from a halo effect on property values,” said Dennis Schoenmaker, executive director and principal economist, CBRE Econometric Advisors.

Click here to view the report.

About CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Dallas, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2023 revenue). The company has more than 130,000 employees (including Turner & Townsend employees) serving clients in more than 100 countries. CBRE serves a diverse range of clients with an integrated suite of services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at www.cbre.com.