AIRAH's Climate Action Plan

We collectively need to do more to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change. In Australia, this means taking actions that will contribute to the legal target of achieving net zero status by 2050 – or preferably earlier.

Achieving net zero with HVAC&R

AIRAH has been active for many years in promoting policies and measures to mitigate climate change, to adapt our buildings to the changing climate, and to establish the critical link between how buildings perform in operation and their carbon impact.

To increase our efforts, AIRAH will produce a Climate Action Plan.

This will map our current and planned activities in the areas where we have a duty and the ability to act:

In our role as a professional institution
Setting codes of professional conduct and collaborating with other professional institutions and organisations.

Through our actions
Practising what we preach.

With education
Developing and promoting training and professional development programs.

Via research
Supporting the continuing development of knowledge and understanding, and helping the dissemination of that research.

With policies
Providing advice and advocacy for better HVAC&R outcomes and a transition to net zero carbon.

By providing guidance
Supporting our members from the strategic level and in the setting of targets.

In offering support
Through awards, events, and the promotion of leading practices to support a net zero future.

More information on the development of AIRAH’s Climate Action Plan is available via this web page or by contacting [email protected]

Introduction | Taking the first step | Activities for AIRAH and our members | AIRAH’s Sustainability Policy (proposed) | AIRAH’s carbon footprint scope | Learn more

half-circle Introduction  

As Australia drives to be net zero by 2050, we know this is achievable with known technologies, alongside improvements in people’s lives, and within the expected economic cost that various governments have accepted.

However, this is only possible if clear, stable, and well-designed policies to further reduce emissions are introduced across the economy. Current policy is insufficient for even the existing targets.

AIRAH has long been active in pursuing climate change mitigation and adaptation for the built environment.

To increase our efforts, AIRAH plans to produce its first Climate Action Plan, mapping our current and planned activities in the areas where we have a duty and the ability to function as a professional institution. We are committed to continually reviewing our plan – working internally with our members, and externally with other organisations.

The plan will include significant steps to help deliver real progress towards net zero and climate adaptation, for AIRAH and in turn the greater HVAC&R community. It includes industry guidance, mandatory CPD, and working with higher education institutions.

Please send us your comments to [email protected] on how we could help you and where you can support our activities.

return to top

half-circle Taking the first step  

AIRAH is calling for nominations to join a dedicated taskforce to collaborate with AIRAH management to discuss key topics, trends, developments, motivating case studies, and areas for growth on the topic of sustainable operations with the built environment.

The objective of the taskforce is to collaborate with industry, and to inform and guide AIRAH to design education programs and initiatives that are valuable, highly engaging, and relevant.

Taskforce objectives:

AIRAH Climate Action Plan – motivate
Motivate the HVAC&R community to think and act sustainably.
AIRAH Climate Action Plan – think
Provide access to developments and the latest thinking in sustainable engineering for AIRAH members and the HVAC&R community.
AIRAH Climate Action Plan – solve
Drive practical solutions for sustainable practices.
AIRAH Climate Action Plan – elevate
Elevate the profile of HVAC&R professionals and their role in finding climate change solutions.
AIRAH Climate Action Plan – highlight
Highlight and profile sustainable and climate-friendly projects.

We are looking for AIRAH members and academics who meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Currently employed in a sustainable role or related field – from any career stage
  • Holds qualifications in sustainable or environmental engineering or similar

Please send us your comments on how we could help you, and where you could support our activities by contacting [email protected]

return to top

half-circle Activities for AIRAH and our members  

As a professional institution
  • Develop and adopt a Sustainability Policy Position.
  • Add to our Code of Professional and Ethical Conduct (see more) the requirement that: “Members shall promote the principles of sustainability and seek to prevent avoidable adverse impacts on the environment and society.”
  • Produce an annual report on our activities.
  • Collaborate on industry-wide guidance.
  • Introduce obligations or strong recommendations for members to offer a net zero option in their work/projects.
  • Engage with international organisations (e.g., ASHRAE, IIR, ISHRAE, IOR, IIR, etc.)

Practising what we preach – our AIRAH office and activities

For more information, please see AIRAH’s carbon footprint scope.

  • Perform energy-efficiency measures and performance monitoring in our office.
  • Develop a sustainability policy covering our activities, events, premises, staff, procurement, and transport.
  • Create a process for reporting transport data on our expense forms, allowing us to analyse our carbon footprint beyond our office building.
  • Move our investment portfolio to an Ethical Investment Fund – this applies to exclusion and restriction criteria for investments in companies deriving their revenues from fossil fuels and electricity generation.
  • Develop an improvement plan for our offices for better energy efficiency, summer comfort, health, and wellbeing.
  • Explore feasibility of achieving net zero carbon for our office building via a working group (being examined as part of overall AIRAH office strategy, including post-pandemic future ways of working).
  • Commit to Scope 1 and 2 reductions by 2025 and to Scope 3 by 2030.

Events, dissemination, and awards
  • Regular reporting on zero-carbon agenda in AIRAH magazines, social media, newsletters, and websites, and in AIRAH-produced articles for other media and organisations.
  • Regular coverage of zero-carbon agenda at AIRAH events and online webinars.
  • Create a new Embodied Carbon Award category for the AIRAH Awards.
  • Seek more alignment with other institutions (such as MECLA) on sustainability awards and embodied impacts.
  • Continue to provide input into proposals such as COP26, etc.

  • Regular input to policy consultations (e.g., Building Regulations/Future Homes & Buildings Standard, retrofit, energy efficiency, low-carbon heat, operational ratings).
  • Develop position statements and briefings including net zero carbon buildings, planning, overheating, green recovery.
  • Collaborate with government working groups on climate change issues relating to the built environment.
  • Collaborate with others to align our policy recommendations where possible, including ASBEC, GBCA, etc.
  • Promote the findings of the Innovation Hub for Affordable Heating and Cooling (i-Hub).
  • Support call for regulating embodied carbon, and input to working group.

Research and education
  • Research areas aligned with AIRAH’s strategic priorities, including the net zero carbon agenda and climate adaptation. Topics include embodied carbon in building services, circular economy, low-carbon buildings, retrofit, and climate impacts.
  • Ecolibrium technical papers to include retrofits, circular economy principles, and embodied carbon in residential heating systems in the built environment.
  • Explore other topic areas (e.g., ground-source heat pumps, etc.)
  • Regular education on low-carbon buildings, overheating, and building performance.
  • Collaboration with other bodies (e.g., MECLA) on embodied carbon in the built environment.

return to top

half-circle AIRAH's Sustainability Policy (proposed)  

The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating (AIRAH) is a not-for-profit organisation recognised by government and industry bodies for our advocacy and expertise in engineering services for the built environment.

Through continuing professional development offerings, accreditation programs, and a wide range of technical publications, we develop the competency and skills of industry practitioners so they can better meet society’s evolving health, safety, and environmental demands.

Officially incorporated by guarantee on March 29, 1920, AIRAH celebrated its Centenary anniversary in 2020.

Our members have the potential to make a dramatic difference in sustainability, and we recognise our responsibility as an organisation to manage the effects of our own operations too. All employees have responsibility for implementation of this policy by participating and contributing to its success through their actions.

We expect our suppliers and sub-contractors to be aware of our policy and to comply as appropriate. We consider sustainability to encompass environmental, social, and economic elements, with a focus on having a net-positive impact – i.e., “Doing better rather than just being less bad”.

  • Comply with all relevant environmental and energy legislation.
  • Produce a sustainability action plan; regularly monitor, manage, and review performance against the plan; and report annually to the Board (including annual review of this policy).
  • Provide employee awareness and training on sustainability issues.
  • Work with our sub-contractors and suppliers to improve our performance.
  • Continually seek to improve our sustainability performance.

Areas of activity
Energy and water
To efficiently operate and maintain our buildings using less energy and water, reducing carbon emissions, and promoting the use of renewable energy.
 AIRAH Climate Action Plan areas of activity
To focus on reducing resource consumption, to reuse where possible, and to recycle unwanted materials (e.g., paper, office furniture).
 AIRAH Climate Action Plan areas of activity
Travel and transport
Seek to minimise emissions from business travel, commuting and deliveries, and to promote more sustainable travel to AIRAH activities by members and visitors.
 AIRAH Climate Action Plan areas of activity
To procure goods and services in a socially, environmentally, and economically responsible manner. This can range from the ordering of Fairtrade refreshments to the purchase of stationery containing recycled materials.
 AIRAH Climate Action Plan areas of activity
Seek to maintain our buildings and grounds in a way that enhances plant and animal life and encourages staff and visitor interaction with nature.
 AIRAH Climate Action Plan areas of activity
Health and wellbeing
To contribute to the positive mental and physical health and wellbeing of staff and visitors.
 AIRAH Climate Action Plan areas of activity
Training, awareness, and communication
To increase sustainability literacy among staff, members, contractors, suppliers, partners, and visitors.

return to top

half-circle AIRAH's carbon footprint scope  

AIRAH has been measuring our carbon footprint since 2019. The information below outlines the background to these measurements.

Scope examples (more information may be found via Plan A's website):

  • Scope 1 – All direct greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Scope 2 – Indirect greenhouse gas emissions from consumption of purchased electricity, heat, or steam.
  • Scope 3 – Other indirect emissions, such as the extraction and production of purchased materials and fuels, transport-related activities in vehicles not owned or controlled by the reporting entity, electricity-related activities (e.g., T&D losses) not covered in Scope 2, outsourced activities, waste disposal, etc.

Scheme 1,2,3 scope emissions / Credit: Plan A based on GHG protocol

Scope 1 – Refrigerant and fugitive emissions

Includes leaks in a company's HVAC system, chillers, refrigerators, etc., through which refrigerant gas escapes. Most refrigerant gases contribute to global warming when leaked into the atmosphere. The quantity of leaked gas is assumed to equal the amount of gas replaced in these systems by an HVAC or chiller maintenance company.

Refrigeration and air conditioning are composed of many end-uses, including household refrigeration, domestic air conditioning and heat pumps, mobile air conditioning, chillers, retail food refrigeration, cold storage warehouses, refrigerated transport, industrial process refrigeration, and commercial unitary air conditioning systems. Historically, this sector has used various ozone-depleting substances (ODS) such as CFCs and HCFCs as refrigerants. These ODS are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol and are being replaced with HFCs, HFOs, and natural refrigerants.

Emissions from the refrigeration and air conditioning sector result from the manufacturing process, from leakage over the operational life of the equipment, and from disposal at the end of the useful life of the equipment. These gases have 100-year global warming potentials (GWP) 140 to 11,700 times that of carbon dioxide, so their potential impact on climate change can be significant. Similarly, any reductions of these gases can have a large potential benefit.

This Protocol addresses emissions from manufacturing, operation, and disposal phases.

Snapshot of AIRAH's carbon footprint 2019–2021

Total emissions
Total operating revenue
Emission efficiency ratio
2021 206.29 3,218 0.06
2020 115.89 2,739 0.04
2019 469.96 4,124 0.11
2021 vs 2020 78% 17%
2021 vs 2019 -56% -22%  

Snapshot of AIRAH's carbon footprint 2019–2021 – total tonnes of CO2e
AIRAH's carbon footprint
snapshot – tonnes of CO2e
2019 2020 2021
Scope 1 434.94 99.36 195.84
Scope 2 35.02 16.53 10.45
Scope 3 0 0 0
Total 469.96 115.89 206.29
AIRAH's carbon footprint by business
activities – tonnes of CO2e

2019 2020 2021
Events 235.86 19.96 115.33
Paper 126 53.01 63.06
Workplace 20.19 18.9 13.1
Building 35.02 16.53 10.45
Mobility 34.89 7.49 4.35
Total 469.96 115.89 206.29

Total emissions
Events Mobility Paper Building Workplace
2021 206.29 115.33 4.35 63.06 10.45 13.10
2020 115.89 19.96 7.49 53.01 16.53 18.90
2019 469.96 253.86 34.89 126.00 35.02 20.19
2021 vs 2020   478% -42% 19% -37% -31%
2021 vs 2019   -55% -88% -50% -70% -35%

AIRAH tonnes of CO2e by business activities

Breakdown of AIRAH's carbon footprint 2021

Business activities – FY2021 Scope Categories Emission types Tonnes of CO2e
Paper-based products (magazines and technical manuals)
Emissions that occur from production and distribution of sold products in vehicles and facilities not owned or controlled by AIRAH.
3 Downstream production and distribution Paper 63.06 0.6%
Events (conferences, Industry Nights, etc.)
Emissions from food, drink, and accommodation purchased by AIRAH.
3 Purchased goods and services Events 115.33 55.9%
Purchased electricity 2 Purchased electricity Building 10.45 5.1%
Business travel flights 3 Business travel Mobility 3.97 1.9%
Office supplies (computers and IT equipment) 3 Purchased goods and services Workplace 8.12 3.9%
Office supplies (telephone, mobile, internet) 3 Purchased goods and services Workplace 4.98 2.4%
Travel by public transport 3 Employee commuting Mobility 0.21 0.1%
Travel by car (average petrol) 3 Employee commuting Mobility 0.17 0.1%
206.29 100%

return to top

half-circle Learn more  

For more information on the development of AIRAH’s Climate Action Plan, please email [email protected]

You can also find out more about our advocacy work, including our focus on climate change. For more information on the Australian heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) industry, please click here.

This page was last updated November 8, 2022

Ecolibrium – the voice of the HVAC&R industry