First ever 'Buildings Day': Green buildings scale up

Green building advocates at COP21 have formed a global alliance to help countries meet their climate commitments and promise to certify more green buildings, equivalent to twice the size of Singapore.

More than a hundred business groups from the construction and buildings sector have unveiled ambitious plans to expand the green building movement around the world and certify about 1.25 billion square metres of space, an area nearly twice the land mass of Singapore. 

Industry leaders and members of national green building councils made the announcement on the first ever Buildings Day at COP21 in Paris on Thursday, and pledged to speed up initiatives to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the industry over the next five years.

The group, led by the World Green Building Council (WGBC), presented a collective commitment from 24 national green building councils worldwide, including several in Asia Pacific such as India, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.

They committed to advance green building initiatives such as “net zero carbon” for new buildings, energy efficiency and retrofitting existing buildings by 2050, the group said on its COP21 campaign website Better Build Green.

They also joined the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, a global pact which aims to help governments meet their national emissions targets or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

The alliance will have members from 18 national governments, as well as cities and various industry bodies including the WGBC’s 74 national green building councils with about 27,000 corporate members. Four Asian countries - Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam - have signed up. 

Terri Wills, the chief executive of WGBC, said in a statement that the initiative is a “turning point in history”. 

“While the building sector is a major contributor to climate change, it is an essential part of the solution – and one that brings immediate benefits to economy and society,” she said.

Experts say about a third of global carbon emissions come from the buildings sector. If the building industry were to make a difference, it must reduce emissions by 84 gigatonnes by 2020. This is equivalent to emissions from about 22,000 coal power plants.

Certified green buildings currently occupy only about 3.5 billion square feet (or 325.2 million square metres) worldwide, according to researchers.

“Committing to an area of green buildings twice the size of Singapore over the next five years is just the start – in 10 to 15 years’ time this action will catalyse a green building revolution which will see sustainable buildings become the norm,” Wills said.

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