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The opportunity of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act and COP27 to act on embodied carbon

Just last month, a new United Nations report revealed that climate efforts have fallen short globally, and we’ve collectively fallen off track to meet the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. Yet this isn’t a time for resignation.

As leaders from around the world gather in Egypt for the United Nations annual climate conference (COP27), the focus is on action. The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) marks the most significant climate and clean energy legislation in U.S. history. With the IRA comes great opportunity.

A group of people walking through an outdoor courtyard at COP27

Autodesk joined leaders from around the world in Egypt for the United Nations annual climate conference.

But how do we go from policy to implementation, to meet our collective climate goals? Fortunately, there are tools available today that can help us reduce the emissions of tomorrow. 

At Autodesk, we believe that we can design and make a better world for all. Not only are we focused on improving our own operations through science-based climate goals, but we’re also dedicated to advancing our industries, and partnering with our customers, empowering them to create solutions, connect their data, and accelerate the outcomes that matter to them.

Learn about Autodesk’s presence at COP27.

The embodied carbon opportunity

One area that particularly excites me lies in reducing embodied carbon. The carbon emissions contained in the processing, manufacturing, transportation, and construction of projects or products are all classified as embodied carbon.  

We know that reducing embodied carbon during the design phase has immense impact. Since global warming works at an exponential rate, by reducing emissions presently going into the atmosphere, we also reduce the impact of future emissions.

Let’s take the construction industry, which accounts for nearly 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions. Further, around 30% of materials made for use in construction are thrown out.

Opportunity also awaits our manufacturing customers. In the U.S., manufacturing accounts for almost a quarter (23%) of direct carbon emissions, and by 2050, the growth in population and associated demand for consumer goods will require at least twice the energy and materials currently used.

We know technology plays a crucial role in combatting global climate change.

You can’t commit to lowering carbon if you’re not measuring it. Measuring carbon requires digital transformation, incorporating tools and technology to create and implement more efficient processes. We see great opportunity to help our customers in this area.

The Inflation Reduction Act

The U.S. Government is making investments in our industries, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors. What’s most exciting is the $369 billion in funding available for climate and clean energy through this legislation, which can have true impact on both the outcomes of our customers, as well as their bottom lines.

This is an effort the U.S. has been leading for the past few years. The provisions in the IRA only further this leadership by investing billions to create both supply and demand in the construction and manufacturing industries for low-embodied carbon materials and products. In fact, within the IRA, there is almost $6 billion to reduce factory emissions, $250 million set aside for manufacturers to measure embodied carbon for construction materials and products, and more than $4 billion for public buildings and infrastructure projects to use them.

In AEC, a variety of tools exist to calculate embodied carbon. One example is EC3, a free, open-source tool that analyzes available materials and suppliers to help professionals reduce embodied carbon. We’ve been a lead sponsor of EC3, providing easy access for our customers through integration with our construction software.

In manufacturing, our recent collaborations with Makersite and Pré Sustainability will soon provide users with an ability to measure the embodied carbon impact of products designed in our software. Bringing environmental data directly in the designers’ tools will help them get immediate feedback on material & manufacturing choices and enable sustainability-led product design at scale.

Continuing the embodied carbon conversation at COP27

Autodesk was joined by the Smithsonian Institute, Architecture 2030, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development for the COP27 panel, “The Power of Partnerships to Decarbonize Industries.” 

This year, Autodesk returned to the United Nations Climate Conference, highlighting real-world examples of how technology can help implement our climate commitments.

From hosting a panel with Autodesk Foundation grantee Build Change about retrofitting housing in order to lower embodied carbon, to our presence in the Buildings Pavilion, COP27 has been an inspirational moment of connection with fellow organizations and governments from around the world, all dedicated to meeting climate goals. 

We are also committed to purchasing lower-embodied carbon materials for our own operations. This year, we joined the First Movers Coalition, a partnership between the U.S. government and the World Economic Forum. In joining this effort to decarbonize the hardest-to-abate sectors of the economy, our commitment is to clean aviation. Secretary John Kerry announced the expansion of the coalition during a panel discussion at this year’s COP.

Head here for more about the First Movers Coalition.

As the conference comes to a close, I find myself energized by the opportunity we have—in collaboration with governments, civil society, and industry—to build a more sustainable future for all.

The funding available through the IRA and the focus on implementation at COP27 signal the incredible moment for our customers to take further action and meet their sustainability goals. We’ll be by our customers sides, continuing to promote responsible policies and technologies that improve sustainability, build resiliency, and grow the economy.

Together, let’s partner to reduce embodied carbon and work towards achieving our climate goals.