News digest: Greenhouse gases hit record high, huge investment in green buildings predicted, innovations deliver transparent wood and liquid windows

10 December 2019

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

As new reports reveal the worsening impacts of climate change around 200 countries are in Madrid for the UN climate talks, green buildings offer an enormous investment opportunity, our government starts to take energy efficiency seriously, and check out the latest innovations in carbon injected concrete, transparent timber and liquid windows. These stories and more in our regular round up of green building and climate change news from here and around the world. As this is our last news digest for 2019 we’d like to say a big thanks for your support and we wish you all the best for the festive season. Our team will be back in mid-January making sure you’re always in the loop.

GBC news

The Canada Green Building Council is helping Canada eliminate carbon emissions with 10 projects certifying under its Zero Carbon Building Standard. These pioneering projects include new and existing offices, schools and warehouses, each demonstrating that buildings of all types and age can achieve zero carbon emissions, reports Remi Network.

Leading European cities and companies have pledged to reduce carbon emissions from their buildings to net zero. Helsinki in Finland and Valladolid in Spain have joined 26 other cities across the world in signing the World Green Building Council commitment to net-zero carbon buildings. The commitment is to reach net zero emissions for their own buildings by 2030, and for all buildings to be carbon zero by 2050, Climate Action reports.

Climate change

The UN climate talks, also called COP25, are underway in Madrid. As they opened UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged countries not to lose hope in the fight against climate change, reports TVNZ. By the end of the first week of the two-week conference countries had failed to reach an agreement on the time period future climate pledges should cover, reports Climate Change News. A report released during the talks says climate change and nutrient pollution are driving the oxygen from our oceans, and threatening many species of fish, reports the New York Times.

At the same time, a study by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation shows the concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit a record high, reports The Guardian. In another report, the UN says countries will have to increase their carbon-cutting ambitions five fold if the world is to avoid warming by more than 1.5C, reports RNZ.

A score card published by climate action advocates 350.org has praised New Zealand's "global leadership" on reducing emissions, reports TVNZ. Meanwhile, Climate Action Tracker says if every country did the same as New Zealand to combat climate change, the world would fail to meet its Paris Agreement targets, reports Newshub.

The NZ Defence Force has released plans for reducing its carbon footprint and preparing for climate change, reports Stuff. Stuff also explores seven specific changes New Zealand can make that would have the largest impact on meeting our zero carbon goals.

In Australia the Climate Council says Sydney and Melbourne could experience 50C summer days before the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

Europe could become the first continent to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050 under a European Green Deal due to be launched this month, reports the NZ Herald.

Investment

A new report by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, says green buildings will offer a $24.7 trillion investment opportunity in emerging markets by 2030 which will spur economic growth and accelerate sustainable development.

The CEO of major real estate company BNP Paribas Real Estate UK makes the case for investing in greener buildings and offices in an opinion piece on Business Green. He says business decisions must align closely with the needs of the world and the future we want to help create. 

European investors managing assets worth more than 1 trillion pounds are pressing top auditors to take urgent action on climate-related risks, warning that failure to do so could do more damage than the financial crisis, reports Reuters.

Two multi-billion dollar NZ government guaranteed investment funds say they will continue investing in fossil fuel companies, despite the government's efforts to fight climate change, reports RNZ.

Energy

Governments need to take stronger policy action to reverse the worrying slowdown in global energy efficiency improvements, according to a public survey conducted by the International Energy Agency, reports Modern Diplomacy. Meanwhile a new report with recommendations on how the adoption of energy efficiency technologies can be accelerated globally has been released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, reports Smart Energy.

In New Zealand the government, which is the nation's largest tenant, is looking at ways to achieve energy efficiency certificates for the vast swathe of offices it leases and owns through the country, reports Stuff.

The Sustainable Business Network announces the winners of its 2019 awards. There is a lot of inspiring work being done, including AUT who won the Revolutionising Energy category for its energy efficiency initiatives to reduce energy consumption, energy costs and CO2 emissions.

Construction

NZ's largest private construction firm Naylor Love has developed a calculator that quantifies the amount of carbon in building structures using different materials. It says using engineered timber instead of concrete and steel on commercial buildings may cost a little more but can reduce carbon emissions by about 90 percent, reports Stuff.

Waste

The NZ Government is proposing a new national levy scheme covering all landfill types including domestic, industrial, construction and demolition. RNZ discusses the proposal with two experts.

Housing

Fletcher Building is looking at using modular construction systems to take a major stake in this country's apartment market, reports Interest.

Stuff offers advice from the experts on getting the best return for value when renovating your home. Stuff also talk to builder and TV personality Peter Wolfkamp about his restoration of a heritage villa in Devonport including about the importance of sustainability.

Innovation

A French company has developed an augmented wood product that is weather-proof, more fire resistant, three to five times stronger, and transparent, reports Horizon.

A Canadian startup has developed a way of injecting captured carbon dioxide into concrete during the mixing phase, causing it to react with the concrete and turn into a mineral, reports CNN.

Euro News looks at a water flow smart glazing system that could hold the key to energy efficient buildings of the future.

Callaghan Innovation is encouraging local innovators to develop their ideas for a lower-emissions planet with their 2019 C-Prize challenge, reports The Spinoff.