Act global and act local

31 Oct 2023

The environmentalist’s cliché has always been to “think global and act local”. That won’t get us to net zero at scale at speed. Now we must act global and act local.

Last month, I was fortunate to take a tour of the Australian High Commission in Washington DC, a brilliant new building that tells the story of Australia’s leadership in sustainability to the world.

The beautiful Bates Smart design draws inspiration from the Australian landscape and is like a glittering glass box that opens to the sky. It is grounded by First Nations’ artwork that is woven into the floor coverings and furniture. It boasts a thermally efficient façade, a green roof with an extensive beehive-inspired photovoltaic array, and is on track to receive a Green Star rating.

I was in Washington for a World Green Building Council board meeting and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the US Green Building Council. Conversations were infused with optimism, and I was heartened by the commitment among our GBC colleagues to draw on the global network to take local action.

Our role at the GBCA is translate international megatrends, global frameworks and green building leadership into practical tools and strategies that Australia’s property industry can apply.

The global call to action is ever-present when the built environment is responsible for 40% of the world’s emissions. It is no longer possible to say “our market is different”, because investors have global targets and want global alignment.

But our action is also local, because we must tackle every building from the bottom up. As we keep saying, every building counts.

Local governments are at the forefront of global innovation and the frontline of local action. This month, in collaboration with the Property Council, we launched the local government edition of Every Building Counts in Melbourne. This report makes 19 policy recommendations that local governments can adopt to shape greener, healthier and more equitable built environments.

Melbourne was the perfect platform to launch Every Building Counts for Local Governments, as the City of Melbourne is already stepping up its local action to meet its target of zero carbon by 2040. The City is introducing a suite of policies, including zero carbon leases and an emissions cap, and using rates to encourage emissions reductions.

If every building counts, then we must also reach out to every homeowner in the country. Last week, in partnership with Allianz, we launched our first guide for sustainable home renovations. Australians spend more than $11 billion a year upgrading their homes but haven’t had easy access to information on resilient and sustainable options. Now they do. Check out Green Specs, a website with tips and tricks to help homeowners navigate the technical side of sustainable home renovations.

The property industry’s ‘local heroes’ have also been applauded globally this month, as the 2023 GRESB benchmark for sustainable real estate confirms that Australia is developing and delivering the world’s greenest buildings.

Congratulations to all the GBCA members for your hard work, and especially to Lendlease and Charter Hall for being named GRESB global sector leaders. GRESB assessed more than $11 trillion in assets in 2023 to confirm that some of the world’s best practice in sustainable real estate is found here in Australia.