New buildings must be net zero emissions by 2030, GBCA says

New buildings will have to be emissions neutral by 2030, and existing buildings by 2050, if Australia is to meet its international climate change obligations, the Green Building Council of Australia has said.

GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew used the Green Cities conference in Sydney to launch an industry discussion paper – A carbon positive roadmap for the built environment – which says that a cost-effective pathway for achieving a carbon positive built environment will help Australia meet its climate target while also increasing property portfolio value.

The discussion paper identifies that while the Australian property industry has been an early adopter of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, lack of certainty and clear guidelines have made many businesses reluctant to accelerate their investment in carbon-positive solutions.

The GBCA has identified four key priorities: promoting energy efficiency through passive design and efficient systems; driving investment in resilient, renewable energy infrastructure; increasing markets for net zero carbon products, materials and services; and promoting offsets for remaining emissions.

6 Star Green Star to be net zero emissions by 2021

Changes to Green Star are outlined in the roadmap, including a proposal that all 6 Star Green Star buildings achieve net zero emissions by 2021, and an expansion of minimum requirements to include increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy consumption, whether on or off site.

Similar requirements are proposed for existing buildings holding Green Star Performance ratings.

The split between base building energy use and tenant energy use within the current Green Star system is proposed to be resolved, with a whole-of-building approach developed. GBCA is considering a system of incentives within Green Star to encourage tenants and owners to work collaboratively towards achieving net zero emissions.

These trajectories are to be extended across all asset classes including multi-residential.

“We believe this approach will be a cost-effective pathway for buildings and portfolios, and will also achieve other positive outcomes for Australia – such as efficient, comfortable and healthy buildings, energy security and a thriving renewable energy industry, jobs growth in emerging sectors, and enhanced biodiversity,” Ms Madew said.

In terms of asset owners, investors and building managers, the GBCA said a roadmap could lower the risk profile of assets in terms of future energy and carbon policies.

“Our industry has a strong track record delivering sustainable buildings and precincts, and now has the world’s most sustainable market according to the Global Real Estate Sustainable Benchmark,” Stockland general manager of sustainability Davina Rooney said.

“We have demonstrated how carbon reduction strategies can reduce costs, boost health and wellbeing of building occupants and enhance the value of assets. This carbon positive roadmap is a natural next step, providing clear pathways to carbon neutrality and creating new value for building owners, occupants and the broader community.”

What offsets should be allowed?

Offsets are also a topic for discussion, with stakeholders asked to comment on whether international offsets should be considered as appropriate. The question is also asked as to what kind of outcomes should be expected from the strategic investment in offsets either from overseas or in Australia.

“More than 170 nations – including Australia – have agreed to limit global temperature rises to less than 2?C, and to strive towards global temperature rises of no more than 1.5?C,” Ms Madew said.

“As the built environment is responsible for 23 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse emissions, the property and construction industry has a central role to play in meeting these targets.”

The GBCA is now calling for industry feedback on the suggestions.

“While this discussion paper puts forward our ideas, feedback from industry is mission critical. It is only by working together that we will achieve a carbon positive future,” Ms Madew said.

  • Read the discussion paper and have your say here

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