Climate change and our part in its downfall – New Zealand Green Building Council

Across Aotearoa around a dozen councils have now declared a climate change emergency, including Nelson, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay and Queenstown. There’s a real momentum to tackle climate change now. And buildings have a prime part to play.

Big thanks to climate change, our planet is being pushed to its limits – this blog by NZGBC Chief Executive Andrew Eagles provides insights and some practical ways forward.

In June, on a clear, fresh morning, I was readying myself for a presentation to Auckland Council addressing the key role that buildings and homes have to play in tackling climate change.

I was one of the oldest people speaking to the Council that day, by quite a few years.

Most of the other speakers were students, taking time out from school or university to press Auckland to declare a climate emergency. And, to applause and cheers, the Council did just that – with a unanimous vote.

Around a dozen councils around Aotearoa have now declared a climate change emergency, including Nelson, Christchurch, Wellington, Dunedin, Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay and Queenstown.

The Pope’s joined in too, declaring a global climate emergency.

There’s been a decent deal of discussion about these climate emergency declarations, and what they might actually mean. Are they just fine words, with little action to be expected?

Well, what isn’t in question is the levels of energy and enthusiasm that were in the room in June when Auckland Council passed that declaration. It was really something.

There’s a real momentum amongst New Zealanders urging our government and councils our businesses, and our whole country, to tackle climate change now. (Here are ten steps that Councils can take for a resilient and low carbon future.)

And buildings have a prime part to play.

Later this year, the zero carbon bill should become law, and enshrine a government commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill is very welcome. It is striving to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and it will create a Climate Change Commission, tasked with keeping the government on track to achieve emission reduction targets.

It’s not perfect though. And, until 16 July, we all have a chance to make a submission on the Bill. We are making a submission, as the Green Building Council, and I do urge you all to consider making one too.

If you’d like some guidance, do take a look at our submission.

In our submission, we support the Bill, while making a number of suggestions too. We’d like to see a halving of New Zealand’s carbon emissions by 2030, as part of a roadmap to a 2050 net zero target.

And, given that emissions from the construction industry have increased by 66% in a decade and the built environment is responsible for 20% of Aotearoa’s carbon footprint, we’d also like to see the Climate Change Commission include a building, construction and property expert, with knowledge of the sector’s carbon emissions and the solutions which are available to reduce these emissions.

New Zealand is a wealthy country, with a relatively high level of per capita climate change emissions. We’re a member of the international community, and as a close friend of our Pacific neighbours, who are already bearing the brunt of climate impacts, it is our responsibility to do all we can to slash our climate change emissions.

And, if we’re going to successfully tackle climate change, we’re going to have to do it together, collaboratively. Thank you to all of you who have shared your thoughts and ideas during the consultations and workshops recently on the new net zero standard for existing buildings. We’ll have a big announcement on this new standard in September.

Also in September is World Green Building Week. We’re looking forward to collaborating, networking, listening, and talking with hundreds of people around Aotearoa during the week. The team here is working on some great events across the country, so do keep an eye on our event listings, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn for the latest.

As always, do please drop me a line with any questions, suggestions or reflections. Phone: (09) 379 3996, email: info@nzgbc.org.nz

Story by: Andrew Eagles

Photography by: Diana Parkhouse

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