A question of leadership

After a decade of indecision and partisan politics, climate change is again emerging as a priority policy issue ahead of Australia’s 18 May federal election.

Our summer of record-breaking temperatures has seared the issue in voters’ minds, and the latest Ipsos Issues Monitor, Australia’s longest running survey of community concerns, finds nearly a quarter of voters put climate and environment among their top four concerns.

After a decade of indecision and partisan politics, climate change is again emerging as a priority policy issue ahead of Australia’s 18 May federal election.

Our summer of record-breaking temperatures has seared the issue in voters’ minds, and the latest Ipsos Issues Monitor, Australia’s longest running survey of community concerns, finds nearly a quarter of voters put climate and environment among their top four concerns.

Climate change is just one of the many areas of concern to voters in which the built environment plays a central role in our nation’s future. Healthy, resilient and sustainable places are the heart of every strong society and every thriving city – and should therefore be top-of-mind for all politicians out on the hustings.

In the lead-up to the election, the Green Building Council of Australia has released a five-point election platform to help the next Australian Government shape the performance and productivity of our cities and communities.

This includes a plan for carbon positive buildings, a vision for cities and communities, smarter infrastructure investment and a strategy for affordable, sustainable housing.

It also includes a call for strong government leadership – whether that’s by maintaining steadfast commitment to the Paris Agreement, negotiating a national energy framework or elevating performance requirements in government tenancies.

Improving the energy efficiency of our buildings is still among the most cost-effective ways to drive down emissions and enhance energy productivity.

Addressing the energy trilemma of cost, reliability and emissions reduction is impossible without an integrated, long-term plan for our national energy market.

According to ASBEC’s Low Carbon, High Performance report, government-occupied buildings alone represent 14 per cent of the built environment’s emissions reductions opportunities.

With the right policies and incentives, we can achieve more than a quarter of the national emissions target while delivering almost $20 billion in savings.

Strong industry leadership has already delivered outstanding outcomes across Australia. Green Star certified buildings produce a third of the emissions, consume a third of the electricity and use half the water of business-as-usual buildings. And with 2,250 Green Star-rated projects around Australia, we’ve taken huge strides towards a more sustainable future.

Our members have helped deliver this market transformation since our inception in 2002. This commitment to our collective vision is manifest across industry, universities, professional services firms, banks, local government and state and federal government departments and agencies. While our politicians prevaricated, we have saved more than 186 megatonnes of carbon emissions and $28 billion in energy costs over the decade to 2016. In this we have a powerful example of how much can be achieved with perseverance and leadership.

So while policy uncertainty has undoubtedly eroded business confidence and driven up energy prices there is plenty of room for optimism as we approach a new parliamentary term. Our built environment presents an incredible opportunity to deliver better outcomes for all Australians – whether that’s reducing our carbon emissions (and easing the transition for more emissions-intensive sectors) or delivering more liveable communities with smarter infrastructure investments.

We need the right regulatory settings, but we also need government leadership to send the right signals to the market. As the next Australian Government looks to demonstrate strong leadership, save money and cut emissions our buildings are the best place to start.