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Davina Rooney’s letter to the industry: Toward a zero carbon future with cautious optimism

New GBCA chief executive Davina Rooney comes with a challenge the industry seems happy to embrace. What’s on the cards could be all 6 Star Green Star buildings be mandated net zero carbon.

In my career I have seen sustainable buildings come a long way. 

Now, as we approach the critical decade on climate change, it is an honour to join an organisation that is seeking to radically lift its performance through to 2030.

This fundamental shift will see not only industry but increasingly investors and communities putting a premium on creating healthy, resilient and positive places.

This is the vision of the Green Building Council of Australia, its members and partners, the organisation I now have the great privilege and pleasure to lead.

It’s a vision shaped and put into practice by the hard work, dedication and leadership from my predecessor Romilly Madew AO, the entire GBCA team, the board

Davina Rooney

Davina Rooney at the GBCA’s Green Building Day in Brisbane on Tuesday in one of her first appearances as CEO

and industry collectively.

The Carbon Roadmap from 2018 launched a bold vision that we are now seeking to embed into Green Star’s future. We have seen amazing opportunities where we can move portfolios of assets and radically reduce their emissions while delivering better outcomes for their customers and the communities they serve.

So I come to this role at the point where together, we are now embarking on a bold new phase that puts into action plans that are the culmination of months of preparation and consultation.

These plans have a clearly defined goal – making a zero carbon future our new reality – and I am confident that real, tangible results are achievable. 

The net zero benchmark has been set. Now, in partnership with our members, we are navigating the path to attaining it.

It is a journey we are making from an enviably strong starting position, supported by companies who have proven themselves time and again as world-leaders in sustainable property.

Companies who are highly engaged, contributing their expertise to building the next generation of tools and policies.

Chief among these are our aforementioned Carbon Positive Roadmap as well as Green Star, a system that has already seen more than 2250 projects certified.

The evolution of Green Star, that we call Future Focus, is being progressed as a true partnership with industry. In April we launched our consultation paper for the first of these rating tools. 

We have since received over 82 submissions supporting our proposals for evolving Green Star. The proposals we have put back to industry clearly resonate with them. And we will continue with our consultative approach with industry as we move through these final phases.

For example, we saw universal agreement that Green Star buildings should help meet the Paris target of 1.5°C, and so we have proposed through Future Focus that all 6 Star Green Star buildings be mandated net zero carbon.

This may seem like a challenge, but industry is rising to it. Already we have a number of forward-thinking companies that have signed up to our Early Access Program help us refine the new rating tool for full-scale implementation.

Critically, we are also making Green Star more accessible while both maintaining and increasing our standards.

We want to enable people working on Green Star projects to spend more time focusing on the sustainability outcomes and less on the certification paperwork.

As such, as part of the revisions to Green Star, we are finessing our systems, improving our processes, and demonstrating new methods across different asset classes.

We believe this will deliver a better rating system to respond to the challenges of the coming decade.

The residential sector is responsible for 57 per cent of built environment emissions in Australia

It is part of our broadening focus, to encourage and champion the implementation of sustainability measures across the wider built environment. Having spent many years championing Green Star as an end user, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to take forward this transformational work.

This year we will also see our Future Homes project progress. As the source of more than 57 per cent of built environment emissions in Australia, it is important that we work collaboratively towards a more sustainable residential sector in Australia.  

Along with these and other initiatives, we will of course also continue our advocacy with government. We are proud of the partnerships we have developed across local, state and federal government delivering real leadership across the country. Building on this success, urging ongoing leadership by example, and scaling up what we know works will be critical to realising our vision and sustaining a longer term reduction in our carbon emissions nationally. 

This week we will advance many of these discussions through our Green Building Day program in Brisbane on Tuesday and then finally in Sydney on the 26th and I am delighted to be attending both in my new capacity as CEO. These will be wonderful opportunities to both celebrate our achievements but also to listen and exchange learnings as we look ahead.

Achieving our decarbonisation agenda will be challenging, but I believe – as I know so many across industry do – that it is imperative we succeed in order to mitigate the risk of catastrophic climate change. The key sentiment echoed by everyone I have met so far is one of cautious optimism. I look forward to helping harness this optimism, together with the ambition and commitment of our members, in order to overcome these challenges and achieve our shared goals.

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