Progress and practical action

13 Dec 2017

So, this is Christmas. And what have we done? Another year over brings with it a chance to reflect on the industry’s achievements and what lies over the horizon, says the GBCA’s Chief Executive Officer.

I was asked this week to name our biggest area of focus in 2018. My answer was climate action.

And this is the reason why.

When it comes to climate and energy policy, we witnessed a lot of talking in 2017 – among nations at COP23 in Bonn, among politicians debating energy supply, among policy analysts on the Finkel Review, and among energy ministers navigating COAG and the Australian Government’s energy policy.

Progress has been slow on policy, but we’ve once again seen practical action this year from an industry delivering real-world results.

We launched National Carbon Offset Standards that set clear definitions of carbon neutral buildings and precincts in operation, and can help building owners cut emissions, engage with tenants and investors and cut costs.

Our work on our Carbon Positive Roadmap, which will be launched at Green Cities, continues apace, and Green Star projects must now meet minimum requirements for greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia’s real estate market was named the world’s most sustainable for the seventh year in a row by GRESB.

We now have more than 1,715 Green Star rated projects around the country, and 37 per cent of our office space is Green Star-certified.

More than 420,000 people are moving into Green Star-rated communities and 42,000 live in Green Star apartments. A massive 1.3 million people visit a Green Star shopping centre each day.

These are all achievements worth celebrating.

But the latest Emissions Gap Report from the UN finds that the world’s current pledges will only deliver a third of what is needed to stay in the safety zones of the Paris Agreement.

Australia must do more. And we can do more.

Over the past ten years, market leaders in Australia, particularly in the large office sector, have demonstrated that rapid improvements in buildings energy performance are possible.

We need to drive more energy efficiency in our residential buildings, but this year a shift in public discourse around energy prices may open the door to more positive outcomes in 2018.

Retail electricity prices have increased by up to 90 per cent over the last decade, and the average family spends more than $2,000 a year on energy costs.

Poor performing buildings are hurting Australians’ hip pockets, but the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council’s Low Carbon High Performance report serves as a reminder of the potential solution. Households can save a massive $16 billion by 2030 through improvements to the energy performance of residential buildings.

The GBCA is currently working with ASBEC on a new project to upgrade energy requirements in the National Construction Code, and to establish long-term targets and a forward trajectory so that we can deliver better quality homes that are more comfortable to live in and cheaper to run.

And here lies the opportunity. New construction adds up fast – and ASBEC estimates that over half of our building stock in 2050 hasn’t yet been built.

Speaking to COAG ministers in November, federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg acknowledged the central role buildings play in meeting our Paris Agreement targets, explicitly mentioning the National Construction Code as a driver for energy efficiency.

Next year will be a big year for those of us committed to climate action. The UN will undertake a global stocktake of emissions reduction actions and progress, and Australia will be called upon to demonstrate how we intend to keep global warming to well below 2°C.

So, watch this space.

Meanwhile, the GBCA will continue our work in collaboration with companies, cities and communities to decarbonise our built environment and to build better places for people.

On behalf of the team at the GBCA, I wish you a safe and happy holiday season. We look forward to working together again in 2018.