Tony Arnel's Speech to World Green Building Council
World Green Builidng Council Dinner, 9 July, 2007
Talking points for Tony Arnel, Chair Green Building Council of Australia
Opening Slide: Sustainability and hyper-urbanisation in Asia-Pacific
I don't intend to preach to the converted tonight by telling this audience about the importance of green building - dear to my heart as that subject is.
Instead, I would like to outline what I believe is the core challenge for the World Green Building Council in the coming years - and that is to play a major role in the sustainable re-furbishment and re-construction of the emerging mega-Cities of Asia-Pacific, working with our colleagues from the region, some of whom are with us tonight.
Because while we still have much to do in our own countries, at least we are starting to make some progress and self-sustaining market solutions are in sight. But the rise of Asia's mega-cities dwarf our own issues and pose the biggest economic and environmental challenges of all for our increasingly stressed planet.
Slide 2: Asia-Pacific: 'hyper-urbanisation'
The situation in Asia is now described as hyper-urbanisation: poor water, energy and waste infrastructure is an economic and an environmental calamity on a world scale.
- Nearly 1 million people per week are moving into urban environments in Asia;
- There will be 1.1 billion more people in urban areas of Asia by 2030 - 53% of the world's urban population
- Nearly one third of the urban poor have no access to safe water and more than two-thirds do not have access to adequate sanitation
- WHO estimates that health costs caused by air pollution amount to about $200 million pa per Asian mega-city
- Resource inefficient building stock is a fundamental constraint
Slide 3: Asia-Pacific: 'hyper-urbanisation' (second slide)
The biggest Cities include Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai in China; Mumbai and Calcutta in India; and Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila in Sth East Asia. These Cities alone may have a population equivalent to that of the United States by 2020. And as you may all be aware, China recently overtook the US as the largest source of greenhouse emissions: growth has been so fast that China reached this dubious distinction a couple of years ahead of projections made only two years ago.
The aspirations of the populations of these Cities to mimic the unsustainable lifestyles of the West are frightening:
If current trends continue, the total number of cars and SUVs in use in China is forecast to grow 15 fold in 30 years (from 12.9 million in 2005 to around 193 million in 2035).
the number of cars and SUVs on Indian roads will rise 13 times from 6.2 million in 2005 to around 80 million in 2035.
We cannot deny the citizens of these Cities the chance to improve their lifestyle - indeed, we owe it to them to help them do so.
Slide 4: Sustainable building: a way forward
But we must help them to avoid the mistakes that we have made in developed nations.
And here, the building industry has a huge responsibility. Because, we represent one sector that can improve both economic and environmental outcomes.
- The IPCC identified that available building technologies offer the best opportunity to make significant reductions in Greenhouse emissions
- IPCC and other reports have also shown these technologies deliver economic and health gains, with rapid payback - both public and private
So, the built environment should be the top priority for practical action.
Slide 5: Building on success
As I mentioned at the beginning, we have had some success in recent years in developed nations. This has included:
- Growth of World Green Building Council
- Launch of the Clinton Climate Initiative-C40 Large Cities $5 billion retrofit program with pilots in London, Berlin, New York and Melbourne
- UNEP SCI activities
- Public-private sector collaboration for market transformation measures
We have a huge distance still to run. But our success in initiating market transformation, in particular, should give us some cause for optimism.
Slide 6: Market transformation in Australia: new buildings
In Australia, the trend is developing momentum of its own. We continue to try to accelerate it, but the obvious economic and quality of life gains that green buildings can deliver is enabling us to work with the market rather than against it.
Slide 7: Building refurbishment: the biggest task
Few new commercial buildings in Australia would now not be green. Our challenge is now to have the same penetration of the existing building stock, which is the biggest part of the property market. In Melbourne where I hail from, for example, the majority of building stock is less than 20 years old and I suspect that the same is true in most other developed Cities.
Our challenge, then is not just to have people opt for green when their building finishes its natural cycle and needs refurbishment, but to accelerate the refurbishment process and make energy and resource efficient buildings obsolete.
Slide 8: Australian refurbishment agenda
We have a number of programs underway to do this, comprising carrots and sticks.
A key initiative is to stimulate the demand side of the equation - we have most of the technical skills required to build green but we need to have tenants demanding green from their landlords if this acceleration of market transformation is to succeed. To this end, we are about to launch a major advertising campaign targeting tenants, encouraging them to demand green buildings for both economic and environmental reasons.
Slide 9: 500 Collins: a tall building refurbishment
We have some good examples of what can be done. A recent re-furbishment of a tall building in Melbourne's CBD achieved 5 Green Stars (LEED Gold). The project has been a commercial undertaking from start to finish and is proving a winner with solid tenancy uptake. What's more, a recent productivity study of one of the tenants showed impressive gains across a range of productivity data, including falls in sick leave, reduced time spent on administrative tasks and gains in overall profitability.
Continuing and accelerating the process of market transformation in Australia is a major challenge and would normally be enough to keep me occupied for many years.
Slide 10: How do we roll this out in Asia-Pacific?
But, as I said at the outset, as a region and as a planet, we face even bigger challenges. The rise of Asia's mega-Cities cannot be ignored. We have a collective responsibility and interest to help these nations find ways to put their mega-Cities onto the path of sustainable development. And if we think that its hard to create change in a developed country, think of just how much harder it is when basic services have not yet even been met.
This, I believe, is an issue on which the World Green Building Council must focus in the coming year. We need to be thinking of rapidly transferring our knowledge - not only our technologies but also processes of how to manage change through market transformation. We need to develop templates for sustainable re-furbishment and re-development, relevant to developing countries.
Developing nations will also need access to finance, as sustainable investments often deliver their best returns over longer time frames. So, WGBC can be able to facilitate this by engaging with banks and insurance agencies, many of which are beginning to embrace the benefits of sustainable business strategies.
In summary, we have to bring together the agendas of ending poverty and the quest for sustainable development. Al Gore's 'live earth' concerts held over the week-end and Bob Geldorf's 'make poverty history' campaign have to become two sides of the same coin.
Slide 11: WGBC Leadership
So, this is the challenge I would like to see the World Green Building Council take up. We will need to make supporting the newly emerging Green Building Councils in countries like India, China, Vietnam and the Philippines a top priority and seed organisations in other nations. I know that we all have our hands full with changing our home markets but this challenge affects us all.
Our leadership is badly needed. The Green Building Council of Australia is keen to play its part.
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