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Climate Action 2010-2011

Policy and Governance

Policy and Governance UNEP-SBCI Symposium on Sustainable Buildings, Shanghai, 29-30 October 2010. © Marcelo Takaoka. Buildings provide common ground for outcome in Cancun Maria Atkinson Chair of the UNEP-Sustainable Buildings and Climate Initiative (SBCI) Board The building sector can provide common ground for the Conference of the Parties as they meet in Cancun – a vital step for any global agreement on climate change, says Maria Atkinson, Chair of the UNEP-SBCI Board. Buildings are often overlooked in climate change discussions but they are responsible for almost a third of our global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A common carbon metric would incentivise and accelerate the vital process of green refurbishment in existing buildings, bringing impressive, costeffective carbon savings. If we’re seeking common ground among nations, buildings are surely a good place to start. After all, while they may differ in size and shape, they exist in developed and developing countries across the globe. Many of us spend 90 per cent of our lives in buildings such as houses, schools, hospitals, offices and factories. The building sector is inextricably linked to economic and social development. Globally, it is one of the largest employers – some 10 per cent of the world’s workforce. On the downside, buildings are responsible for approximately 40 per cent of global energy use and up to 30 per cent of GHG emissions. The sector has also been one of those worst hit by the global financial crisis. The good news, however, is that the building industry has the greatest potential for delivering GHG emissions cuts, at the least cost, using available and mature technologies. In fact, new research shows that the emissions reduction potential in buildings is much higher than was presented in | 34 | the buildings chapter of the IPCC 4th Report. Despite these facts, the building sector continues to be overlooked in discussions by governments around the world and lacks the enabling policy frameworks that would let it deliver deep, fast, low-cost emissions reductions and a range of social and economic benefits. Key players in the global building sector have been collaborating to develop a common carbon metric for the sector to allow it to accurately measure the carbon performance of buildings in a consistent manner, and enable meaningful comparison or baseline establishment and target setting for GHG emissions reduction. It will also allow governments to measure, report and set targets for emissions reduction in the building sector and avoid the catastrophic impacts of climate change. Now it’s time for governments around the world to step up to support the sector’s efforts and at the same time lock in economic development for their countries. Common Carbon Metric As Lord Kelvin, mathematical physicist and engineer, famously enunciated, “What can be measured can be evaluated, improved, directed – in short, managed”. But the building sector lacks the metrics needed to allow it to accurately measure the carbon performance of buildings in a consistent manner worldwide, let alone to evaluate a building’s performance against others, or inform its improvement. Addressing this problem, the UNEP-SBCI members and partners agreed to collaborate to develop www.climateactionprogramme.org

Policy and Governance a Common Carbon Metric for the global building sector in December 2009. Ultimately, it will lead to the establishment of baselines and benchmarks to make meaningful comparisons, and set targets for verifiable GHG emissions reductions across the sector. UNEP- SBCI is working in partnership with the World Green Building Council and the Sustainable Buildings Alliance to address baselines, benchmarking, and monetization. The scope of the Common Carbon Metric project is necessarily wide-ranging to suit the very specific needs of both policymakers and the market for a multitude of purposes. The market, including building owners and facilities managers both public and private, sees value in a common protocol for accurately measuring, documenting and monitoring performance data, to allow for meaningful comparison and verifiable assessment of the success of technologies or strategies implemented to reduce emissions. By aggregating individual building reports by city or region, policymakers will be able to accurately determine and monitor the important role of the built environment in reducing the emissions profile of their jurisdiction. The raw building performance data will also enable policymakers to establish building sector performance baselines or reference points. This data can then be ‘corrected’ or ‘normalised’ to account for climate, establishing benchmarks for each building type in different climatic locations against which the market can make building-by-building comparisons and with which it can make informed decisions on investment priorities. Policymakers can use such benchmarks for the allocation and verification of fiscal incentives, as well as for setting annual targets and longer term trajectories. The table below summarises the key purposes and benefits of the Common Carbon Metric. Reporting Accurate portfolio and sector reporting is needed at a range of policymaking levels: Country: National inventory reporting under the Kyoto Protocol and its successor; policymakers need accurate reporting to establish reference points for setting building codes and for planning; raw data on building stock and from individual buildings per type of building and climate region is needed. Organisations: Voluntary reporting indices such as the Global Reporting Initiative, Dow Jones Sustainability Index, or the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP); shareholders need information for investment decisions; businesses need specific reporting for asset management and capital allocation prioritisation. Asset performance against the benchmark for building type and climatic location is needed. Purpose Benefit Policy Setting Baseline establishment • Buildings recognised as part of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions Inventory reporting (NAMAs) Sectoral reporting and city, • National emissions inventory for all sources and all sectors state or province and country • Common reporting framework for reporting to government level • Robust building sector information for policy makers at all levels • Total emissions known for all building types Market Information Benchmark setting • Education for design professionals Market rating/certification • Overcome information symmetry – design & asset ratings • Informed market decision-making on investment priorities Market comparison • Informed decision making for sales of buildings, or leasing or staying in buildings Operational impact assessment Disclosure at point of sale/lease Analytical and assessment tools Market Shift Target/cap & trajectory setting • Verifiable environmental outcomes for policymakers to improve allocation of Monitoring & verification fiscal incentives procedures • Capital management for building owners Financial assistance & • Improved project methodologies for Clean Development Mechanisms and incentives voluntary carbon markets. • Return On Investment (ROI) planning for building owners Market Transformation Sector specific carbon • Drive laggards in the sector trading mechanisms • Deep mine the property sector to unlock abatement opportunities • Stimulate innovation www.climateactionprogramme.org | 35 |