Recently, The Asia Pacific Regional Network of Green Building Councils gathered in Melbourne, the 16th most livable city globally, to experience the renowned Green Cities conference. At the event, the Green Building Council of Australia launched the executive summary of their Carbon Positive Roadmap, the culmination of a year-long discussion engaging their industry.
As a global green building movement, our ambition is clear – all new buildings must operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings must operate at net zero carbon by 2050. As part of this ambition, over the next decade, GBCA has committed to supporting their industry in achieving high levels of energy efficiency and the use of 100% renewable energy from both on-site and off-site sources. Additionally, they will provide education and capacity building in power purchase agreements, GHG accounting, technology (e.g. storage, smart controls) and governance tools to manage the transition. In other words, GBCA is all in!
Our Asia Pacific Regional Network meeting in Melbourne centered around this topic of net zero carbon buildings, and how GBCs are leading the way in decarbonizing the built environment.
Firstly, it was interesting to hear our Network reflect that while we have been effective in driving down energy use through more energy efficient technologies and design, we still have a long way to go in terms of occupiers’ energy use. As a follow up to this, WorldGBC’s Asia Pacific Network is working with CBRE on a deeper dive into the business case for green buildings in key Asia Pacific markets. Part of this dialogue is about promoting the disclosure of energy use in buildings as a key component to driving behavior change. What gets measured get managed, so it is important that we empower people with information about their energy use.
Secondly, governments in the region play a key role in the transition to a low-carbon futurewhich is why so many of our GBCs work closely with national and sub-national governments. In Hong Kong, the HKGBC is working closely with the government in their ACT Shop programme to support industry in enhancing energy efficiency of existing buildings, as they consume the bulk of the city’s energy. In Indonesia, the GBC is collaborating with the Jakarta government to reduce building emissions by 30% by 2030, under the Jakarta Grand Design, given the impact that can be made through buildings.
In addition to government, our GBCs are also collaborating with multi-laterals and aid agencies. In Pakistan, the GBC is working with the World Bank on developing the Energy Conservation Building Code. Given that both steel and cement are produced in Pakistan, the GBC is looking not only at energy efficiency regulations but also at reducing the embodied carbon of these products by reducing the amount of energy consumed during their production. In the Philippines, the GBC works with aid agencies from both the EU and the US to provide educational resources for government in order to reduce regulatory barriers to energy efficiency.
Most importantly however, the GBCs at our Melbourne meeting agreed that while energy efficiency is important and has multiple benefits, such as cost savings and better comfort, it is not the end goal. Our end goal is net zero carbon, and so to meet this end goal, access to renewable energy must be pursued concurrently, not sequentially, to energy efficiency measures. This means our movement needs to drive renewable energy access just as strongly as it is driving energy efficiency measures.
But there are regional complications: In the Philippines, existing regulations are driving up prices of renewables. The country has one of the world’s leading solar panel manufacturers, but due to unfavorable regulations the panels are for export purposes only. They would be heavily taxed if used domestically, driving up the price of clean energy. GBCA’s year-long consultation with industry on what a carbon positive future would look like is a great example of linking energy efficiency and renewable energy strategies. In key markets such as Australia and India, GBCs are reaching out to bring renewable energy companies closer into the movement. Our Regional Chair from India GBC, S. Raghupathy shared his vision for the Thar Desert between India and Pakistan as prime land for a solar farm and a big step towards decarbonisation, as well as reconciliation.
Our GBCs are leading the transformation to a low-carbon future. Our ambition has been set and the path ahead is clear. Energy efficiency technologies have been successful but more needs to be done to address occupant energy use behavior for maximum reductions; we’re working in partnership with governments and multilateral agencies to build on one another’s strengths; and we’re ramping up focus on renewable energy access to meet our net zero carbon end goal. Do you have an interest in a low-carbon future in Asia Pacific? Join us in this transformation!