by Brianna Crandall — May 20, 2016 — A new report from the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) underscores the “massive” potential for the built environment to slash emissions, save money and support other industries as Australia transitions to a low-carbon economy, says the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).
ASBEC’s new report, developed by ClimateWorks Australia, finds Australia’s built environment sector can reach zero carbon by 2050; deliver healthier, more productive cities; and save $20 billion using technologies that exist today.
The report provides a roadmap to drive the transition to a zero-carbon building sector and improve the living and working environment of all Australians.
“When Australia signed up to the Paris Agreement, we made a binding commitment to develop decarbonisation strategies so we meet net zero targets by 2050,” says Romilly Madew, chief executive officer of the GBCA and deputy president of ASBEC. “It’s crystal clear that we have a finite carbon budget.
“Our buildings are responsible for 23 percent of our national carbon footprint. This places them at the frontline as we look to reduce our emissions. Australia consistently tops international tables for green building leadership, and we have more than 1,000 low-carbon, Green Star-rated buildings around the country.
“Lendlease is working on carbon-zero communities, such as Barangaroo South in Sydney. Stockland has reduced the emissions intensity of its office portfolio by 50 percent over the last decade. Mirvac has slashed its energy bills by $29 million since 2009, and Frasers Property Australia has 1.3 million sq m of Green Star-certified space. This is real leadership.
“While our industry’s leaders have already shown that step change is possible, a large slice of the market is lagging behind. We must remove the barriers preventing the rest of the market from taking action.”
Madew says the task is urgent, with the report finding just five years of delay could lead to more than 170 megatonnes of lost emission-reduction opportunities, and $24 billion in wasted energy expenditure. This is the emissions from almost 36 million passenger vehicles driven for a year, or the electricity required to power 23 million homes, calculates GBCA.
“Tackling buildings now will take the pressure off other energy-intensive sectors with less clear pathways to decarbonization,” Madew says. “If we continue with business-as-usual energy use, Australia will expend its carbon budget in 13 years. If we implement the recommendations from the ASBEC report, we can extend that carbon budget to 19 years.
“We have the technology, the skills and the knowledge to halve emissions from buildings, while also boosting the productivity, health and wellbeing of the people who live, learn, work and play in them. It’s time to take action.”
The report, Low Carbon, High Performance, is available to download from the ASBEC Web site.