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Food for Thought UNFCCC 2009, Green Buildings -- Regulate Now

 by Felix Dodds Executive Director Stakeholder Forum

14th of October 2009, at UNFCCC in Outreach


I had the pleasure to listen to a wonderful talk by Ron Dembo, CEO of Zerofootprint Inc. in Barcelona at a UN Habitat event in October. He certainly for me is someone who is starting to map out some very interesting ideas on practice ways to address the way we might reduce our carbon footprints in buildings and other footprints as well. He is a Toronto-based developer of carbon-emission measurement and management software; He contends that the construction and operation of buildings generates 40% of North America’s carbon emissions. In big cities, the numbers are far higher: 63% in Toronto and 79% in New York.

He argues that we won’t solve the greenhouse-gas problem if we don’t deal with our buildings. Dembo says “ Poor insulation, archaic heating and cooling systems, and inefficient lighting have rendered many buildings energy hogs. Green retrofits that make buildings more efficient — such as installing energy-saving lighting, re-insulating walls and “re-skinning” buildings with new exteriors — are the best way to deal with the carbon problem”.

Its been estimated that the value of such green upgrades will account for 30% of all U.S. renovation projects by 2014 — six times their 2009 share.  This is where the Green Economy makes some clear contribution to employment through Green Jobs.  Buildings need to be intelligent not only in their carbon but also their water and waste services. 

C40 the Large City Network working on Climate Change has been doing innovative work. As they say 80% of the worlds greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from or for cities. The majority of emissions are caused by cities in industrialised countries, and the effectiveness of additional reductions can be much higher when tackled through an off-setting scheme in cooperation with a partner from a developing country.

Working with the Clinton Climate Initiative they have found some interesting new ways to help finance change in cities.

They are helping offer financial advice on:

·         Advisory Services – Consultation on project financing options, including analysis of access to carbon markets and equity funds.

·         Financial Institution Relationships – Introductions to local and global lending institutions.

·         Cost-Justification Analysis – Lifecycle cost and payback analyses tailored to cities’ unique equipment, performance, and operation and maintenance requirements.

The growth in cities isnt in the north but in the south, China plans to build four hundred new cities by the year 2020. Yes 400 new cities. The question is what kind of cities. The buildings we build now are going to last 60-100 years and so we need to stop exporting bad building design high energy, high waiter use, and high waste. The new cities of the developing world should  be green cities. Perhaps we need global legislation to stop exporting the bad designs of the north to the south meanwhile ensuring  they have access to the best and most upto date green building technologies.   

UNEP have estimated that the: “right mix of appropriate government regulation, greater use of energy saving technologies and behavioural change can substantially reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the building sector which accounts for 30-40 % of global energy use”.

So why is it taking so long for governments to change building regulations?

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