Climate change and building pollution

Climate change is the most serious and pressing issue of our time, and the science is clear. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we need to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, if we are to avoid a range of climate change impacts.

The main cause of global heating is a rise in carbon in the atmosphere. This has been rising by an average of 2.5 parts per million (ppm) over the last decade, to well over 400ppm.

The ppm count on our frontpage comes from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The observatory's remote location, undisturbed air and minimal local human activity make it ideal for monitoring the atmosphere.

Worldwide, the construction and operation of buildings accounted for 39% of emissions in 2017.

In New Zealand, the emissions of buildings and homes in are significant, and increasing. Emissions from the construction industry have increased by 66 percent in the decade from 2007 - 2017.

New Zealand's built environment is responsible for 20 percent of the country's carbon footprint.

Reducing the emissions associated with the building and construction sector would have benefits for many New Zealanders. Warmer, healthier homes would save New Zealanders money in household bills, and have significant beneficial health impacts too. Our high rates of respiratory disease are estimated to cost the country $6bn per year.

Greener commercial buildings are more energy efficient - and there are great gains for New Zealand to make in energy efficiency, too. Government departments and businesses could be saving hundreds of millions of dollars in energy bills and productivity where energy efficient buildings are encouraged. There are opportunities also to reduce locked-in or embodied carbon in New Zealand buildings.