Shocking state of Kiwi homes must be centrepiece of emissions reduction plan

09 May 2022

Responding to this morning’s speech by climate change minister James Shaw on the upcoming emissions reduction plan, which prominently featured homes and buildings, Andrew Eagles, chief executive of the Green Building Council, said:

“James Shaw was right this morning to highlight the shocking state of homes in New Zealand, and the crucial role that improving them will have on slashing carbon pollution, and also improving people’s lives, their health and reducing household bills.

“That’s why an ambitious, and ambitiously resourced, plan to retrofit thousands of homes must be a centrepiece of next week’s emissions reduction plan.

“The cleanest, cheapest form of energy is the energy you don’t use. And deep retrofits for our homes will cut the amount of energy needed to keep them warm, dry places for families to thrive in.

“And, if ambitious enough, retrofitting thousands of homes each year would reduce the amount of energy needed on cold winter evenings to such an extent that we wouldn’t need to burn coal at Huntly power station.

“The most equitable, effective way to tackle carbon pollution is to drive energy efficient, warm homes into every corner of the country, but particularly to those disadvantaged communities where households spend far too big a share of their income on energy bills.”

Besides a significant home retrofit programme, the Green Building Council says, to be truly effective, the emissions reduction plan should also include a mandatory energy transparency programme for public and commercial buildings, whereby they have to reveal their energy use. Such a move in Australia has saved seven million tonnes of carbon and created savings of over AU$1 billion.

Homes and buildings are vital in efforts to tackle climate change. Here are some reasons why:

The built environment makes up 20 per cent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint.

A typical new Kiwi home emits five times too much carbon to stay within 2C of warming.

Embodied carbon – the pollution belched out when manufacturing building materials – is significant. For example, if the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world.

Constructing and renovating buildings in New Zealand could pump out carbon pollution equivalent to one million cars on the road every year.