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Cities Pledge Net Zero Carbon New Buildings by 2030

The Science and Technology Facility at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab is a 100 percent net zero energy building where solar cell, thin-film, and nanostructure research are conducted, 2018, Golden, Colorado (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain.

The Science and Technology Facility at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab is a 100 percent net zero energy building where solar cell, thin-film, and nanostructure research are conducted, 2018, Golden, Colorado (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, September 4, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Nineteen pioneering mayors, representing 130 million urban residents, have committed their cities to cut greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that all new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030.

By joining the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the leaders of: Copenhagen; Johannesburg; London; Los Angeles; Montreal; New York City; Newburyport, Massachusetts; Paris; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; San Jose; Santa Monica; Stockholm; Sydney, Tokyo; Toronto; Tshwane, South Africa; Vancouver, Canada; and Washington, DC, also pledged to ensure all buildings in their cities, old and new, will meet the net zero carbon standard by 2050.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment will officially launch at the Global Climate Action Summit <globalclimateactionsummit.org>in San Francisco, California on September 13, 2018.

A zero carbon building is one with zero net energy consumption or zero net carbon emissions on an annual basis.

Commitment signatories will track, verify and report publicly on building performance metrics with a focus on energy use and associated emissions. They will advocate across their supply chains for all suppliers and partners to establish and follow their own commitments to reach net zero by 2030.

Delivering on commitments made now will require a united effort, as city governments do not have direct control over all the buildings in a city. This commitment includes a pledge to work together with state and regional governments and the private sector to drive this transformation, and calls on national governments for equal action.

In June, WorldGBC celebrated the first three founding private sector signatories of the commitment, among them Majid Al Futtaim, a pioneer in shopping mall, retail and leisure destinations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Majid Al Futtaim, an Emirati holding company based in Dubai, has committed to eliminating operational carbon emissions from all its assets across 15 countries by 2030, including more than 12 malls and shopping centres, 12 hotels and three mixed-use living communities. Their corporate strategy drives emission reductions by requiring green energy leases for mall retail units.

The other two founding private sector signatories are Integral Group, a global engineering firm specializing in delivery of net zero buildings, and Signify formerly known as Philips Lighting – the lighting company for the Internet of Things. With a presence in over 70 countries, Signify has committed to net zero carbon for all its more than 300 buildings.

By setting ambitious absolute targets, the Commitment aims to maximize the chances of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as specified in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, by reducing operating emissions from buildings.

Globally, almost 40 percent of energy related greenhouse emissions come from buildings, with 28 percent coming from the operations of buildings themselves. This equals the total emissions of China and the European Union combined.

In 2015, 82 percent of final energy consumption in buildings was supplied by fossil fuels, whereas to meet the Paris Agreement, this must become zero percent.

The WorldGBC definition of a net zero carbon building is a one that is highly energy efficient and fully powered by renewable energy sources, either on-site or off-site.

Urban buildings are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and typically account for over half of a city’s total emissions.

In London, Los Angeles and Paris, buildings account for well over 70 percent of the cities’ overall emissions, creating an enormous opportunity for progress on bringing emissions down.

Currently, half a million people die prematurely each year due to outdoor air pollution caused by energy used in buildings, according to research prepared for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis by a team led by Diana Ürge-Vorsatz of the Central European University, Hungary – Fagship-Projects.

The Commitment has been orchestrated by C40 Cities, a global group of major cities committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level. This pledge from cities is part of the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment for businesses, cities, states and regions, which opened for recruitment in June.

Cities making this commitment will:

  • Establish a roadmap for our commitment to reach net zero carbon buildings;
  • Develop a suite of supporting incentives and programs;
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting our targets, and
  • Evaluate the feasibility of reporting on emissions beyond operational carbon, such as refrigerants.

In addition, 13 cities: Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Montreal, Newburyport, Paris, Portland, San Jose, Santa Monica, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Tshwane and Vancouver, have committed to owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net-zero carbon by 2030.

To achieve this, cities will:

  • Evaluate the current energy demand and carbon emissions from their municipal buildings, and identify opportunities for reduction.
  • Establish a roadmap for their commitment to reach net zero carbon municipal buildings
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting their targets, and
  • Evaluate the feasibility of including emissions beyond operational carbon, such as refrigerants.

C40 Cities Executive Director Mark Watts blogged earlier this year, “By 2030 the majority of privately owned buildings will need to have been retrofitted to high energy efficiency standards in all categories of cities except the two lowest income groupings, where the primary focus is on new build. In the two highest income categories, 95-100 percent of privately owned buildings will have been retrofitted.”

Watts wrote, “…it is possible for major cities to decarbonise fast and deeply enough to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But there is now an incredible urgency to get on track.”

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has launched a major initiative to support the development of zero-energy building. Led by Gregory Hayes, the CEO of United Technologies, and Eric Olsen, Chairman of Lafarge, the organization has the support of large global companies and the expertise to mobilize the corporate world and governmental support to make zero-energy building a reality.

Their first report, a survey of key players in real estate and construction, indicates that the costs of building green are overestimated by 300 percent.

Climate and carbon, human health and high technology are among the top trends expected to drive the global green building market in 2018.

Green Building Council of Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew said, “In 2018, the UN will undertake a global stock take of emissions reduction actions and progress, and signatories to the Paris Agreement will be required to demonstrate their progress towards accelerating emissions reductions.”

Romilly says this stock taking will “undoubtedly reveal the leaders and laggards on climate action, and will put pressure on national governments to step up.”

Terri Wills, CEO, World Green Building Council, said, “Achieving net zero carbon buildings at the mass scale required is complex, multi-faceted and challenging.

“Whether developed as a new standard, adapting an existing certification scheme, or developing a compliance pathway in collaboration with national government,” said Wills, “these voluntary standards provide an opportunity for companies to embrace net zero carbon buildings as business as usual.”

Featured Image: Tokyo, Japan, a city of 13 million people, is one of the cities that has committed to having all new buildings operating at net zero carbon by 2030. July 26, 2018 (Photo by diamory) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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