AKAH and AKF promoting greenhouse gas management across the AKDN
In Gilgit, a mountain town situated in a valley of the Karakorum Range in Northern Pakistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) is working with the First Microfinance Bank Pakistan (FMFB-P) to build a green building to house the bank’s new Regional Headquarters. The building will benefit from a range of passive design measures, which take advantage of local climate conditions to reduce the amount of energy required to maintain a comfortable environment indoors.
AKAH's design responds to the site by using insulation, shading devices and natural materials to regulate temperature and lighting levels in the office. Passive design is complemented by energy efficient lighting as well as mechanical systems. With these features the building will need less energy to operate, reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 13 tonnes of CO2 per year, helping AKAH and FMFB tackle climate change.
Initiatives such as this are part of AKAH’s broader efforts to manage and reduce AKDN’s carbon footprint and mainstream GHG management across the AKDN. GHG emissions from human activity, such as burning fossil fuels to produce electricity or to transport goods, are the main cause of recent climate change. Curbing the world’s GHG emissions is key to limiting the extent of irreversible climate change.
Reflecting on AKDN’s aspiration to become a leader in GHG management and reduction in the development sector, Prince Rahim Aga Khan stressed that “Environment and climate is a core strategic priority for AKDN. While each of the AKDN agencies and institutions have their own mandates, they all have a crucial role to play in helping to protect the environment and mitigate climate change. It is critical that every AKDN agency and institution measure and report its GHG emissions, as this is the necessary first step in lowering those emissions.”
By measuring emissions over time, AKDN can identify the “most polluting” activities, or hotspots, and target improvement efforts to increase their impact. Measuring emissions also allows AKDN to track progress and adjust the process where new opportunities arise.
AKAH and AKF are leading a cross-AKDN exercise to provide training for all agencies globally on how to measure and report GHG emissions from their operations. The process is based on the GHG Protocol, the most widely used GHG classification framework globally. It classifies emissions in three scopes:
- Scope 1 – direct emissions;
- Scope 2 – indirect emissions from purchased electricity and heat; and
- Scope 3 – all other indirect emissions, for example emissions from the production, transport and disposal of goods and materials.
Construction is the biggest source of emissions for AKAH, responsible for 71% of its total emissions for 2019. At 3,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide for 2019, it would require planting and growing 63,000 trees for ten years to offset emissions from these construction activities; AKAH planted 55,000 tree seedlings in 2019, with ongoing programs to monitor their growth.
However, it is more important to reduce emissions overall, rather than offset them through tree planting. This requires rethinking the ways in which buildings are designed, constructed and operated. AKAH is putting green construction at the heart of development and promoting low-carbon construction principles across AKDN. Similar to the sustainable design of the FMFB building in Gilgit, AKAH is developing capabilities in green energy; sustainable materials; and energy and water efficiency. To help AKDN Agencies reduce carbon emissions from construction, as well as operating and maintaining existing buildings, AKAH is preparing a set of Green Building Guidelines.
Further GHG reduction practices include green office initiatives and reducing travel. AKAH and AKF are expanding training activities for AKDN staff, gearing up agencies to start tracking and reporting their GHG emissions later in 2020, identifying more opportunities for action. Once AKDN has a better picture of where the biggest sources of emissions lie, across different operations, the Network will be in a good position to make a substantial, lasting contribution to mitigating climate change.