New plan unveiled to slash climate emissions from buildings and construction

24 September 2019

The Government is being warned today that it will fail in its key pledge to tackle climate change if it does not improve New Zealand’s internationally criticised Building Code and also insist on energy efficiency declarations being made public when buildings are sold or leased.

The warning comes from the Green Building Council, who will, in Parliament this evening, launch a zero carbon road map for Aotearoa’s buildings, alongside the first ever zero carbon certification for buildings in New Zealand, developed with Enviro-Mark Solutions.

The road map being launched this evening is the first comprehensive raft of solutions intended to tackle the problem of building and construction climate change emissions.

Emissions from the construction sector have leapt 66 per cent in a decade. The built environment is responsible for approximately 20 per cent of our country’s carbon footprint. And constructing and renovating New Zealand buildings pumps out climate pollution equivalent to one million cars on the road every year. All of which means that New Zealand will not be able to hit the Government’s much vaunted zero carbon goal without tackling emissions from the building and construction sector, say the Green Building Council.

Besides a call for the Government to enshrine zero carbon buildings in the Building Code – the minimum legal standards to which buildings have to be constructed – and a demand for energy efficiency declarations when selling or leasing, the Green Building Council is also asking for key government ministries and departments to ensure all their buildings are independently verified as sustainable, and to slash ‘embodied’ carbon. Embodied carbon refers to the climate change pollution emitted during the manufacture and construction of a building and its materials, and is separate from the carbon emitted during the buildings’ operation for heating and lighting.

Andrew Eagles, chief executive of the Green Building Council, said: “Climate change is our greatest challenge. But New Zealand will not achieve the healthier zero carbon future we deserve, unless, together, we mightily curtail emissions from the building and construction sector.

“If we don’t cut these emissions, then the government will fail to achieve its zero carbon goal.

“That’s why we have identified the significant milestones that the government and industry must achieve to decarbonise New Zealand’s buildings. These include an improved Building Code, significantly increased transparency around the energy efficiency of buildings, and a call for key government ministries and departments to lead a revolutionary shift in green buildings.

“When all parts of this roadmap are in place, the building and construction sector will be zero carbon – the greatest achievement ever for this industry, or any industry, in Aotearoa.”

Dr Ann Smith, chief executive of Enviro-Mark Solutionssaid: “Despite the urgent need to reduce carbon, emissions are still rising. There is widespread agreement that we need to stay within a 1.5 degree Celsius limit to global warming.

"We can do this, and at the same time unlock business opportunities and improve wellbeing. Reducing emissions in the built environment is essential if we are to help achieve New Zealand’s commitments. Partnerships with like-minded organisations such as the New Zealand Green Business Council are a key part of Enviro-Mark Solutions’ strategy to ensure that real reductions to the atmosphere are achieved.”

A Zero Carbon Road Map for Aotearoa’s Buildings is available here.