This report, produced by the Open Data Institute (ODI) in collaboration with our partner, Arup, brings together the best of what we have seen – both within and beyond the built environment – and what colleagues from across the worlds of data and the built environment have shared with us since we began this project in November 2022.  It is widely acknowledged that the climate and biodiversity crises are real and imminent and that there is an urgent need to contain the rise in temperature above pre-industrial levels to less than 1.5°C. Many countries and sectors are developing strategies to reach net zero – cutting carbon emissions to as close to zero as possible, with any remaining emissions re-absorbed from the atmosphere. Achieving these goals requires the development of strategies for how we collect, use and share carbon data at business, sectoral, national and global scales. However, the concept of a carbon data strategy for a net zero economy, or a ‘net zero data strategy’, is still in its infancy. Developing these strategies could improve the ability to track carbon emissions, identify hotspots to prioritise interventions, determine what’s working well in emissions reduction/removal and more seamless reporting. Although there is currently no blueprint for a net zero data strategy, the building blocks are beginning to emerge. They include:

  • Building and maintaining strong data infrastructure, such as data catalogues, data access technologies such as APIs, open standards and data institutions.
  • Implementing robust data governance, ensuring organisational alignment with the net zero data strategy and defining responsibilities for net zero data actions.
  • Cultivating data literacy and skills, not just in data science but in thinking critically about data and examining the impact of different approaches to collecting, using and sharing data.
  • Operationalising data ethics and evaluating data practices that have the potential to adversely impact people and society through data collection, sharing and use.
  • Starting a cultural change, promoting data leadership, valuing data assets and focusing on whole-system user experience.

We hope this report will stimulate further debate and help us to define best-practice net zero data strategies, which is imperative to combatting the climate crisis.

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#SHARED June 2023_Exploring net zero data strategies in the built environment - ODI and Arup (PDF)