The federal government is being urged to back a national plan towards zero carbon buildings, incentives for the private sector and adopt minimum standards for the energy performance of buildings in a bid to accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
The call comes as the government announced a new $64.2 million in funding to be included in the upcoming Federal Budget, which the Australian Institute of Architects says is the first step towards improving energy efficiency and seeing the full potential of the built environment reduce emissions.
The peak body welcomed the investment in improving energy productivity in both residential and commercial buildings.
The funding comprises $52.2 million to increase the energy productivity of homes and businesses, including a sector-specific grant program for hotels and facilities upgrades.
The new energy productivity measures include dedicated programs to help community organisations lower their energy bills and the hotel sector to achieve an energy uplift.
“The architectural profession is leading the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while working to ensure the built environment is able to adapt and respond to new climate norms,” professor Helen Lochhead, Immediate Past National president and chair of the Climate Action and Sustainability Taskforce said.
“Design plays a critical role in integrating systems, including energy, water and waste management as well as local ecologies and culture, to promote human health and well-being.”
“Growth in our urban and rural cities means increasing pressures on our natural environment and the crucial ecosystem services they provide such as clean air and cooler urban areas,” professor Lochhead said.
Globally, the building and construction sectors are responsible for 39 per cent of all carbon emissions, with operational emissions from energy used to light, heat and cool buildings making up around 28 per cent.
Australia’s built environment opportunity
Research by ASBEC and ClimateWorks has shown that the built environment can deliver more than a quarter of the emissions reductions needed to meet the Paris Agreement target.
The institute’s chief executive Julia Cambage says there is a clear opportunity for the federal government to harness a growing commitment to achieve economy-wide net zero emissions by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement.
“But there is also scope to accelerate the pace of change in high-performing sectors like the built environment by setting an earlier 2030 target. This would create dual benefits by increasing jobs while reducing emissions.
“In the residential space alone we know there is an enormous gap between the average energy efficiency of new, 6.1 stars, versus existing homes, 1.7 stars.”
Cambage said The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which manages the government’s renewable energy programs, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) which invests in a range of projects but must produce less than half the emissions of the grid average, ruling out coal, but not gas—were “two critical vehicles” government has at its disposal to drive large-scale change.
With the federal budget due to be handed down in parliament on 6 October, Cambage added there was scope for greater stimulus that could deliver lower energy costs for consumers, while also enhancing public amenity, employment opportunities and better climate outcomes.
Ahead of the government’s release of its technology roadmap, Scott Morrison said he did not believe the zero-emissions target was achievable by 2050, but that the government planned to reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions “in the second half of the century”.
Energy minister Angus Taylor released the federal government’s Technology Investment Roadmap on Tuesday, which aims to guide $18 billion of Commonwealth investment.
Recent Oxfam research shows the world’s wealthiest 1 per cent of the population were responsible for the emission of more than twice as much carbon dioxide as the globe’s poorer half.
The Oxfam report spans from 1990 to 2015, and found that annual emissions grew by 60 per cent in the 25-year period.
Nadine is the founder and editor of Eco Edition and founder of the Eco Edition Design School. She’s an experienced interior designer, sustainable materials consultant, speaker and serial home renovator.