News digest: Plans to make all New Zealand buildings zero carbon, Kiwis call for climate action, energy efficiency cuts emissions and creates jobs

02 October 2019

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

We release a roadmap for all buildings in Aotearoa to become zero carbon, a close look at 10 of Europe’s most sustainable buildings, energy efficiency promoted in the US, global commitments to reduce emissions must be at least tripled, New Zealand’s biggest ever strike for climate action, and the latest innovations in green construction. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world.

GBC news

Constructing and operating buildings makes up a fifth of New Zealand's carbon emissions, but a landmark report from the New Zealand Green Building Council provides the first-ever roadmap for all buildings to become zero carbon, reports Newsroom.

Stuff highlights that the report urges the government to eliminate the use of gas and coal in new buildings by toughening the Building Code and bringing in mandatory building energy labels.

And, shortly after it was launched, the Government promised to consider the roadmap and how it can support the Government’s climate change goals, reports Stuff.

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

The World Green Building Council announces 63 signatories have added their names to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, launched in September 2018. These organisations have pledged to take urgent action to ensure their own portfolios of buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030.

Green buildings

Making buildings greener could reduce urban carbon emissions by 60%, reports National Geographic. First and foremost, cities need to build better buildings, or better yet, retrofit the ones they already have so they use a lot less energy.

Almost half of Auckland's emissions come from the city's building according to Auckland Council. The Spinoff talks to the council's acting chief sustainability officer to find out what is being done to lower emissions across the board.

Edie showcases ten buildings which are considered to be among the most sustainable in Europe – without compromising on functionality or aesthetics.

Green buildings are better for the planet, but a growing movement of healthy workplaces shows they can be good for people too, reports Eco Business.

The global green building materials market was valued at US$ 198.50 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $480.50 billion by 2026, reports Maximise Market Research.

Climate change

Last Friday, an estimated 170,000 people, many of them students, joined New Zealand’s biggest ever strike for climate action, reports Stuff.

Commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions must be at least tripled and increased by up to fivefold if the world is to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement according to a report delivered ahead of last week’s UN climate action summit, reports the Guardian.

National Geographic takes a look at which nations are on track to meet their climate goals and help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and which nations are failing. In New Zealand a campaign encouraging households and businesses to reduce their emissions to tackle climate change has been launched by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, reports Stuff.

Rising, warming, acidifying oceans and melting ice could be affecting more than a billion people by as soon as 2050 according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reports the NZ Herald. And, the battle to keep the ocean from coastal cities like Nelson, Wellington and Dunedin is being lost, according to the UN report, says Stuff.

The NZ government has released the framework for assessing how extreme weather events, rising sea levels and rising temperatures associated with climate change are affecting the country and what future risks and hazards need to be taken into account. The research will then be used to produce a national climate change adaption plan, reports Interest. And, the independent Interim Climate Change Committee has launched an eight-week, nationwide call for evidence on options available to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government's flagship climate change policy looks set to pass before the end of the year, reports Stuff. In the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, biological methane emissions will legally need to be reduced by at least 10 per cent by 2030 and between 24 and 47 per cent by 2050. All other emissions would be reduced to "net zero" by 2050 to limit global warming increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

A huge legal loophole that allows high-emitting projects to ignore climate concerns could make the zero carbon bill unworkable, write Cindy Baxter and Jeanette Fitzsimons of Coal Action Network Aotearoa for Newsroom.

The New Zealand Medical Association has joined others around the world in declaring climate change a health emergency, reports Stuff. According to the World Health Organisation, climate change is expected to cause 250,000 deaths a year between 2030-2050 from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone.

Five countries intend to sign on for New Zealand's new trade agreement to combat climate change, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expects more countries to join, reports the NZ Herald.

Investment

Globally, two large banks have helped power an unprecedented surge in sales of “green” bonds, which are used to finance everything from wind farms to battery technology, reports Bloomberg.

NZ's Reserve Bank says it has affirmed its Climate Change Strategy through the investment of US$100 million of green bonds.

The amount of money Kiwis are investing into businesses that have a positive environmental and social impact is set to grow to more than $5 billion over the next five years - but it remains a tiny fraction of total invested funds, reports the NZ Herald.

And The Spinoff reports that while there is an increasing interest in sustainability and accountability, thousands of New Zealanders are inadvertently investing in sectors that are doing harm to the planet. Sectors like fossil fuels, tobacco, military weapons and palm oil.

Energy

The International Energy Agency is calling for urgent global action on energy efficiency to deliver major reductions in emissions.

Energy efficiency can slash US energy use and greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 as well as get the country to achieve half of its climate change goals, according to a new report issued by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Meanwhile, energy efficiency was the leader in new job creation across the US energy sector for the second year in a row in 2018 and employed twice as many workers as the fossil fuel industry, reports NRDC. And, a leading American energy expert is optimistic about improving energy efficiency through existing infrastructure rather than relying on future technologies, reports Newsroom.

Investments in renewable energy have exceeded $1 trillion over the past three years, reports the World Economic Forum. Solar and wind, along with hydro and geothermal systems, are providing low-cost alternatives to fossil fuel-based energy.

Housing

The Government says there is a considerable health improvement for children in the year after their homes are made warmer and drier, according to an evaluation of its Healthy Homes Initiative.

A new initiative to raise awareness around temperature and humidity of NZ homes has been welcomed by Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, as a way of encouraging interest in how home environments can affect respiratory health, reports NZ Doctor. The education project is backed by the NZ Green Building Council and is part of ANZ's health homes initiative.

Plans to spend $16 million upgrading 909 social housing units have been fast tracked by Christchurch City Council, reports Stuff. The council has announced it will make the units warmer and drier by upgrading heating and ventilation by next winter, and will add insulation by the end of 2020.

The undersupply of housing may be far worse in many provincial centres than it is in Auckland, according to the latest census figures released by Statistics NZ, reports Interest.

Innovation

Researchers in the US have developed a new process for making cement without emitting greenhouse gases, reports Karma. The process is simple, and scalable, but faces the challenge of persuading a thriving industry to change its established way of doing things.

Curbed takes a look at a billion-dollar construction start up in the US producing cross-laminated timber for prefabricated buildings.

Air quality

Innovation and excellence in air quality have been recognised at the 2019 awards of the Clean Air Society of Australia and New Zealand.

Waste

The Government has announced it will implement a beverage container return scheme, where consumers will get between 5-20 cents back when they recycle their drink bottles, reports Stuff.