Building on a commitment made at the Paris Agreement last December, WorldGBC’s Advancing Net Zero project will call upon the global built environment sector to reduce emissions by more than 84 gigatonnes of CO2 over the next 35 years through the construction of net zero buildings and deep renovation of existing properties.

Long-term targets under the new plan include ensuring that all new buildings and major renovations are net zero emissions from 2030, with 100% of buildings net zero by 2050; and an aim to have 75,000 green building professionals trained on net zero building by 2030, and 300,000 by 2050.

Announcing the project at the Business and Climate Summit in London earlier today, WorldGBC chief executive Terri Willis said: “The success of our ambitions to keep global warming to within 1.5 to 2 degrees will depend on our ability to advance net zero buildings – those which generate clean energy and produce no net emissions. Net zero buildings will be a defining contribution in our efforts to tackle climate change.”    

‘Thriving market’

Eight Green Building Councils from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden will initially take part in the WorldGBC project. The participating Green Building Council’s will develop clear action plans, with an aim to launch a national net zero certification.

“Getting down to zero won’t be easy,” Willis continued. “This will be a long and challenging road but together with the dedication and expertise of our GBCs and partners, we can create a thriving market for highly efficient buildings and make net zero the new normal.”

Architecture 2030, a non-profit organisation working to reduce emissions from buildings, will be  WorldGBC’s Lead Partner on the project, providing technical expertise to some participants, along with other local and global organisations identified by the GBCs.

Edward Mazria, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, said: “WorldGBC’s net zero project reflects the monumental transformation underway in the building sector – to a carbon neutral future. With a number of GBCs worldwide beginning to develop net zero certifications, we are witnessing an accelerated global market shift.”

Circular construction

This announcement is a welcome news for the construction industry which currently holds responsibility for more than 30% of global CO2 emissions. Recent estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggest that current levels of emissions will contribute to six degrees of global warming if the sector continues with a ‘business-as-usual’ approach.

Various industry experts have highlighted that sustainability developments in the built environment can bring large cost, efficiency and environmental benefits. The UK Green Building Council’s (UKGBC) sustainability officer recently stated that collaboration within the construction industry is crucial to ensuring that businesses can embed best practice and overcome barriers to applying circular economy principles.

Collaboration in the UK construction industry will be vital to ensure a significant offsetting of carbon emissions, especially in the wake of Government funding cuts and green policy U-turns: plans to introduce greener homes into the housing mix through the zero-carbon homes policy were recently ditched by the Government, who defeated proposed amendments in Parliament.

Fortunately, at least 8,000 zero-carbon homes are already set to be built in the UK relatively soon, thanks to a £1.1bn cash injection which will see an initial tranche of 4,000 pre-engineered homes built between 2016-2018, replete with rooftop solar panels, energy storage systems and waste-to-energy technologies.

George Ogleby

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