New report reveals government failing to cut building pollution, threatening Paris climate obligations

23 September 2021

The government is failing to adequately slash the carbon emissions of New Zealand’s buildings, thereby threatening its ability to meet international climate change obligations, reveals a new assessment report unveiled today (23 September).

Just weeks before Climate Change Minister James Shaw attends high profile crunch talks in Glasgow, the not-for-profit Green Building Council have released a critical review of the government’s efforts to tackle the climate change pollution from buildings.

Some progress has been made, says the report, but overall it concludes that government is ‘failing to adequately implement the measures to deliver zero carbon buildings, which threatens its ability to meet international climate obligations.’

Government has taken some measures, according to the assessment, but these ‘lack both the ambition necessary to deliver a zero-carbon built environment, and, where measures exist, they are being implemented too slowly.’

Buildings are responsible for around 20 per cent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint, making the building sector a vital part of the government’s ambition of a zero carbon Aotearoa.

Two years ago, the Green Building Council released the first ever raft of solutions to slash emissions from the sector in a roadmap, highlighting key milestones the government should hit.

These included improving the Building Code to ensure zero energy buildings, restricting fossil fuel boilers in new buildings, energy efficiency labelling for buildings, and government, as the most significant occupier of buildings in New Zealand, to lead the way with their own buildings.

The assessment is based on these milestones, plus election campaign promises, and government efforts to tackle what the report calls ‘the growing energy inequity problem in Aotearoa’.

Buildings cause climate change emissions in two ways. The first way is when the construction materials, such as steel or concrete, are produced. Building experts call these ‘embodied emissions’. The second way is when buildings use energy for everyday things like heating, lighting, watching television and boiling the jug. These are called ‘operational emissions’.

Andrew Eagles, chief executive of the Green Building Council, said: “Without a zero carbon built environment, we’re never going to achieve a zero carbon Aotearoa.

“The government has a vital part to play in reducing the emissions from our buildings, and in the last couple of years we’ve heard some fine words from them. But this new assessment shows that when it comes to actual, timely, ambitious delivery of the necessary emissions cuts, the government is failing.

“James Shaw, the climate change minister, is due to head to Glasgow for the COP26 climate change negotiations soon. All of us who want less polluted, healthy buildings would warmly welcome a firm commitment, with ambitious, clear timelines from him ahead of the COP26 day of talks dedicated to the built environment on 11 November.”

Ends

The assessment is available here.