News digest: New Zealand announces its first ever climate action plan, Canada promotes timber skyscrapers, steel sector facing ‘vicious cocktail of climate impacts’

07 August 2019

Photo by Sweet Ice Cream Photography on Unsplash

The building industry is not yet responding to the demand for green buildings, a 24-storey building in New York has been built to meet Passive House criteria, green banks are on the rise as cities look for ways to fund essential work to prevent climate change, more than 2150 public homes have been built in New Zealand in the past year but that’s still well short of demand, and our government announces its Climate Action Plan to move to a low emissions economy. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world.

GBC news

The head of the NZ Green Building Council, Andrew Eagles, and four other industry experts talk to Idealog about how businesses can help protect the environment by tackling the big issue of waste management.

Andrew Eagles also talked to Stuff about the building industry which he says is not yet responding to the growing desire for environmentally-friendly, energy efficient homes. His comments were made in response to a Westpac survey revealing that 52 per cent of people would weigh up climate change risks when buying their next home.

The US Green Building Council is expanding the way it talks about sustainability, reports Treehugger. The Living Standard campaign collects and shares stories that prove that anyone has the power to make a measurable impact on the quality of life of everyone around us, because sustenance, water, air, and shelter are what every person on the planet deserves.

Green buildings

New Zealand health care facilities should use a certified sustainability rating system such as Green Star when building and renovating, says the government in a new guide for making our health sector more sustainable.

Treehugger takes a close look at a 24-storey building in New York that has been built to meet Passive House criteria.

Canon's corporate office in Canada has been awarded one of the highest environmental performance standards in the world, assessed by site development, water efficiency, energy efficiency, material section, indoor air quality and innovation in design, reports Newswire.

The 2019 World Architecture News Awards include a two-tower residential development in Taiwan that has achieved green building certification.

The New Zealand Government has cancelled funding for preparing new standards for earth-built homes, reports RNZ. Earth home advocates are calling it a “bureaucratic shambles”.


Canada is promoting timber over steel and concrete for some large building projects. There are nearly 500 mid-rise timber buildings in various stages of completion across the country, reports the Guardian.

The global steel sector is facing a vicious cocktail of climate impacts that could see water scarcity, global warming and an increased carbon price place more than 10% of the sector's economic value at risk, reports Edie (paywalled).

Meanwhile, CNBC reports the world’s largest steel corporations are not reducing emissions at the rate required to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. Steel production is the largest industrial source of climate pollution.

French food group Danone says it will spend $40 million on upgrading its Balclutha milk powder facility to make it the first carbon neutral dairy plant in New Zealand, reports the NZ Herald (paywalled).

New Zealand's leading building product assurance scheme, Codemark, is in disarray after three of its seven certifiers have pulled out, reports RNZ.


Green banks are on the rise as cities look for ways to fund essential work to prevent climate change and its effects, reports Smart Cities World. The UN says the world needs to spend $2.4 trillion every year until 2035 to mitigate the effects of climate change.

And, green bonds which allow firms to raise finance for low carbon and climate-friendly projects, offer a promising solution to climate change while delivering better outcomes for companies, reports Live Mint.

Meanwhile, green bond supply from around the world in the second half of this year may slow from a record first half, as issuers take time to meet tighter standards on sustainability for activities these bonds are intended to fund, reports Reuters.

Nearly half of UK businesses plan to channel increased levels of investment into their sustainability efforts, as they look to enhance their efficiency, remain competitive, and comply with green regulations, reports Business Green.


The New Zealand Government has radically overhauled its assumptions about the electricity market, in part reflecting new expectations about economic growth and the more rapid uptake of electric vehicles, reports Stuff.

Boston has been ranked the leading US city for energy efficiency, reports Smart Cities World. Current projects range from lighting upgrades, water conservation measures, and solar panel installations.

Leading architects and engineers in the UK are calling for all-glass skyscrapers to be banned because they are too difficult and expensive to cool, reports the Guardian.


In the last year 2178 new public homes were built in NZ - 500 more than expected - but the waitlist for that housing broke an all-time record as it cracked 12,000, reports Stuff.

The Government has officially begun the process of delivering the biggest shake-up to the Resource Management Act since its inception close to 30 years ago. It wants to make sure that climate change is at the heart of the legislation and that it becomes easier for Kiwis to build houses, reports the NZ Herald.

An Auckland Council report suggests 66% of the city's future urban zoned land is on elite or prime soils, reports The main areas affected are in Whenuapai, Kumeu-Huapai, Drury-Opaheke, Takanini and Pukekohe/Paerata.

Insulation companies say they still have a backlog of work following new insulation standards for rental properties that came into effect on July 1, reports Stuff.

Climate change

The government has announced its Climate Action Plan to move New Zealand into a "low emissions economy", reports Newshub. Climate Change Minister James Shaw says it will lead to fundamental changes to how we get around our cities, how we heat our homes, how we farm, and how we dispose of waste. A new poll, prior to that announcement, showed that just a third of Kiwis thought the government could lessen the impact climate change will have on our homes and communities, reports the NZ Herald.

June 2019 was the hottest June on record globally which was the result of climate change and July is on track to becoming the hottest month in recorded history, reports Time. Over the past two months many of the globe's far northern regions have been experiencing extreme weather events. Greenland has experienced rapid ice loss and millions of acres of wildfires have burned in Alaska and Siberia. And, New Zealand is about to mark its 30th straight month of above-average temperatures – something a meteorologist has partly put down to climate change's "tail wind", reports the NZ Herald (paywalled).

A new study says the warming we've seen in the past 100 years is unprecedented when compared with the past 2,000 years, reports USA Today.

The BBC has produced infographics that show how the temperature in 1,000 major cities across the world has changed already and how much it could increase in the coming years.

And, an interactive report, showcasing shining examples of diverse climate solutions from around the world, has been released by the UN. The Momentum for Change initiative tells the stories of 15 winners of the 2018 Global Climate Action Award, using infographics, animations, photos and videos.

There's a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis. To hit the agreed target of a 45% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 governments must make decisive, political steps by the end of next year, reports the BBC.

A few large companies are responsible for the majority of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. While there is no publicly available register to show who they are, a Stuff investigation reveals the annual emissions for 10 companies which are likely to be the highest emitters in New Zealand.

Stuff also reports that businesses belonging to New Zealand's Climate Leaders Coalition are probably pumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than they did when the coalition was founded a year ago.

Meridian Energy says it has released New Zealand’s first corporate report disclosing the risks to its business resulting from climate change.