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Policy Perspective: Issue 2

COP21, Buildings Day and Net Zero

A new international accord aims to transform the world’s fossil fuel-driven economy and slow the pace of warming to below two degrees Celsius.

This pact was made during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Leaders from countries around the world have lauded the treaty, which will commence in 2020.

Banging the gavel amid cheers and applause, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “I see the room; I see the reaction is positive, I hear no objection. The Paris climate accord is adopted.”

It now falls to signatory countries to implement meaningful policies, targets and actions to deliver on commitments.

While many of the changes necessary will be challenging, we know there are many opportunities to reduce carbon while cutting costs and boosting the economy.  The built environment is a stand-out with proven and cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency through implementing existing technologies and practices, as well as encouraging innovation.

Chief Executive Officer of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA), Romilly Madew, says all tiers of government in Australia will need to develop coordinated, complementary measures which target buildings and encourage innovative precinct-scale energy solutions.

“Our industry understands how to deliver low-carbon buildings. Now we need the policies and the funding platforms to help us do it on a much larger scale,” Ms Madew says.

COP 21 was the first at which the built environment was singled out for focused attention and discussion, with an official Buildings Day held on 3 December.

Buildings Day was initiated by several key partners including the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the French Government. The event brought together stakeholders from green building councils (GBCs), industry, the not-for-profit and non-government sector, as well as representatives of governments from all over the world.

Buildings Day sessions focused on climate change solutions from within industry, public policies, value chain transformation and financing options. Speakers included Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, as well the mayors of Mexico City and Chicago, and senior officials from the Indian, Japanese and Finland governments amongst others. Other speakers represented international companies, international industry bodies and the UN.

Buildings Day provided an ideal platform for the launch of the UNEP Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction. This is an alliance of 18 countries and more than 60 organisations which aims scale-up and accelerate initiatives to reduce carbon emissions in the sector and build greater climate resilience in our cities and infrastructure.

The WorldGBC, together with 74 national GBCs from around the globe, also took the opportunity to announce their commitment to achieving ‘net zero’ carbon new buildings and energy efficient refurbishment of existing building stock by 2050. Additionally, 29 GBCs collectively committed to register, renovate or certify more than 1.25 billion square metres of green building space – almost twice the size of Singapore – and train more than 127,000 qualified green building professionals by 2020.

The GBCs of Australia, South Africa and Canada committed to introducing net zero certification for buildings. Romilly Madew says the GBCA will introduce a new label in 2016 to recognise buildings that achieve net zero impact in energy, carbon and water.

“This new label will also recognise buildings that go beyond net zero to make positive contributions to the environment, such as generating more renewable energy than is consumed,” Ms Madew says.

“Alongside this label, we will introduce an advanced curriculum to educate professionals on how to deliver net zero buildings, promote net zero as an achievable goal in our events, and create resources that can be used internationally to drive the uptake of net zero building worldwide.”

For more information, please see previous GBCA media releases regarding net zero certification and the Paris climate accord.

Katy Dean 
Director – Advocacy
Green Building Council of Australia

A new National Energy Productivity Plan for Australia

While some state and territory governments have shown remarkable leadership by setting targets and rolling out programs to reduce emissions, increase the uptake of renewable energy and improve energy efficiency, momentum is once again growing for a nationally-coordinated approach.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has now released the National Energy Productivity Plan (NEPP).

This document outlines a range of strategies to improve Australia’s energy productivity by improving consumer information and decision-making tools, removing market barriers to new technologies and services and supporting innovation and competition within industry and energy markets. It also aims to leverage and expand existing policies, regulations and initiatives to drive improved energy productivity outcomes.

Energy productivity is about getting the most value and benefit from investment in the energy we produce and use. The NEPP sets a goal of a 40% improvement in Australia’s energy productivity by 2030 and outlines a plan for developing policy and a range of initiatives to deliver on this target. Among these initiatives are: examining how the Commercial Building Disclosure program may be expanded; encouraging alignment of state-based energy savings schemes; reducing barriers to finance for energy productivity improvements; and leading by example by improving government’s own energy productivity.

COAG will also consider changes to the National Construction Code (NCC) to achieve better energy efficiency outcomes for Australia’s buildings. The GBCA is currently working closely with the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) and ClimateWorks on a project to identify changes to the NCC that would advance the adoption of building energy technology and design.

We are pleased to see minimum standards, energy markets, government efficiency, commercial buildings, residential buildings, innovation and energy efficiency schemes brought together under a single framework. It is critical that policies are aligned and that a range of complementary measures are established if Australia is to reach its energy productivity potential and meet emissions reduction targets.

The NEPP provides a starting point and a clear signal that governments are eager to make progress. The GBCA will continue to engage with Josh Frydenberg, Minister for Resources and Energy, and other federal and state ministers and departments to contribute to the development of policies and initiatives that will deliver benefits for our industry and the Australian community.

The GBCA commends the NEPP’s focus on reducing energy costs for households and businesses, maintaining Australia’s competitiveness and growing the economy, and reducing carbon emissions and improving sustainability. We look forward to working with industry and all levels of governments to progress a number of the initiatives identified under the NEPP.

There is still huge potential for greater energy efficiency and energy productivity in the built environment and across Australia’s economy and a coordinated and committed effort will see Australia meet and surpass the target of 40% greater energy productivity.

Government leadership case studies

The Weatherill Government has released the state’s new Climate Change Strategy (2015-2050), which commits to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Let's take a look back at one of 2015's success stories. The Sydney Opera House was awarded a 4 Star Green Star – Performance rating, putting the national icon among a select few World Heritage buildings that have achieved green certification globally.

What makes a city great?

On November 27, the GBCA hosted our inaugural ‘What makes a city great?’ event at the Sofitel Sydney. Read CEO Romilly Madew’s follow up piece in Sourceable.