New push to double city energy efficiency gains by 2030

Although cities occupy just three per cent of the earth's land cover, they account for 70 per cent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. A new partnership seeks to advance building energy efficiency in cities.

The World Green Building Council and the World Resources Institute-led Building Efficiency Accelerator have joined forces to double participating cities’ rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030.

The Green Building Councils of Colombia, the United Arab Emirates, Poland and South Africa will start to work with the mayors and municipal governments of Bogota, Dubai, Warsaw, and Tshwane to advance energy efficiency in buildings.

This is important because although cities occupy just three per cent of the land cover on earth, they account for 70 per cent of global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, cities are expanding at a phenomenal rate, adding 180,000 new inhabitants every day.

The WorldGBC will share its resources and help city leaders understand how certification of green buildings can help to spread good practice and create demand.

“Cities are powerful leaders: as owners, investors and regulators, they shape the sustainability of our future,” WRI’s Building Efficiency Initiative director Jennifer Layke said. “Buildings that are efficient improve the productivity of both people and energy systems”.

“By joining forces, the WorldGBC and the Building Efficiency Accelerator support the success of policy and project action taken by all cities: those that are inspirational examples and those that aspire to do much more.”

They will be supported in their efforts by the help of the Building Efficiency Accelerator, whose advice is contained in a policy roadmap aimed at city leaders, Accelerating Building Efficiency: Eight Actions for Urban Leaders.

Cities are powerful leaders: as owners, investors and regulators, they shape the sustainability of our future.

Jennifer Layke, director, World Resources Institute Building Efficiency Initiative

In brief, these eight actions are:

  1. Building efficiency codes and standards: Well-designed codes and standards requiring minimum levels of energy efficiency in design, construction and/or operation of building systems can cost-effectively decrease energy expenses over buildings’ lifetimes.
  2. Efficiency improvement targets: Local governments must set clear energy reduction targets to improve building performance across cities, or at least in government-owned buildings. Governments can also introduce voluntary targets to incentivise private sector action.
  3. Performance information and certifications: Clear data on performance of buildings is vital to enable building owners, managers and occupants to make informed decisions and track performance against targets.
  4. Incentives and finance: City-level leaders can themselves make strategic investments in building efficiency, but can also work with national and private sector financial institutions to educate them in what is needed and spur new investment in buildings. On the plus side of the balance sheet are spin-off benefits such as added value to the buildings and improved performance of occupants.
  5. Government leadership by example: Sharing successful policies in one city with other urban areas helps encourage others.
  6. Engaging building owners, managers and occupants: Local governments have a role to play in an engaging private-sector building owners and occupants through competitions, awards, partnerships, feedback, and support for energy management.
  7. Engaging technical and financial service providers: The public and private sectors must train the local workforce to provide technical and financial support, which helps create new and better paid jobs.
  8. Working with utilities: Utilities should be encouraged to provide better data and make efficient technologies more accessible to their customers.

An economic modelling study, conducted by the Acadia Center, found that for every $1 million spent on energy efficiency, $3 million to $4 million of GDP growth and 22 to 27 new person-years of employment can result.

This is not just because the investments in energy efficiency projects directly create demand for products, services and labour. There is also a long-term economic benefit derived from the resulting utility cost savings, which are diverted elsewhere in the economy.

Paying less for energy means more cash in the hands of consumers and improved productivity and competitiveness for building occupiers that are businesses.

There is also an improvement in government tax revenue which more than offsets the cost of energy-efficiency programs. The Acadia Center estimates that aggressive investment in energy efficiency in Canada alone could generate as many as 304,000 jobs and $48 billion in GDP annually.

Further Green Building Councils are expected to join the BEA through WorldGBC as the partnership develops.

Participants will be helped in producing their own integrated policy roadmaps, that will be tailored for their specific requirements.

Funding for this process and the resulting program implementation will be secured from a variety of public and private financial institutions.

This story was published with permission from The Fifth Estate.

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