Global Green Development Goals: The Need For Sustainable Cities
There is a direct correlation between climate change and buildings, according to the World Green Building Council (WGBC) CEO Terri Willis. With the increasing incidence of dangerous climatic events such as flooding, heat waves, earthquakes, extreme weather events, and rising ocean levels, it is clear that the world needs to take action to combat climate change. Willis believes that the green building movement will lead the fight against climate change, “owing to the positive environmental impact [it] has on the planet.” But this push for green building will need to be focused on our cities and urban environments, as cities are responsible for 67% of the total global energy consumption and more than 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Sustainable Urban Farmers.
The world population is expected to increase by over 1 billion between 2016 and 2030, and it is projected that these people will populate our urban areas, calling for the construction of over 80 billion buildings in cities worldwide--an area roughly equal to 60% of the total building stock of the world. Since so much of the world is expected to be built and rebuilt over the next two decades, it is crucial now more than ever that the world begin to utilize green tactics and technologies. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change believes that we can achieve this goal by creating low-carbon and zero-carbon cities, districts, and buildings to dramatically reduce the environmental impact and exposure of cities, create environmental adaptability, and ensure that people have access to inexpensive and renewable energy sources.
According to the WGBC, if people working in the construction, transportation, and building sectors continue with “business-as-usual” practices then the planet is headed towards 6 degrees celsius warming, the results of which will be apocalyptic in nature. Yet the WBGC believes that the world can achieve the new 2 degrees celsius target set by the COP21 Paris climate conference. However, to accomplish this task, the globe must first reduce 84 gigatons of CO2 by 2050 in the building sector alone, the same as eliminating 22,000 coal-fueled power plants.
The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report confirms this need for immediate and sustained action on climate change, and it claims this can be done by increasing the amount of green buildings worldwide. In the United States alone, buildings account for almost 40 percent of national CO2 emissions and out-consume both the industrial and transportation sectors. The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) states that LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings have 34 percent lower CO2 emissions, consume 25 percent less energy and 11 percent less water, and have diverted more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills. The benefits of green building are undeniable for producers, consumers, and the environment. And as expected, the green building trend is on the rise, with the global green building sector continuing to double every three years, according to a Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report, and survey respondents from 70 countries reporting that 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.
The WGBC, the USGBC, and several national governments, including the Obama Administration, believe that greening cities is critical to lowering the impact of the built environment. In 2010, President Obama launched the Better Buildings Initiative, focused on improving the efficiency of commercial, institutional, and multifamily buildings and industrial plants by 20% or more over 10 years. And in 2015, at the Paris climate conference (COP21), a landmark green building panel was held to ensure that energy-efficient building operation remains a key area of opportunity for reducing carbon emissions, even as many commercial building owners, investors, managers and corporate occupiers have already reduced energy usage in their properties. The final COP21 deal even included several Building Sector agreements, which are expected to lead to actions that will result in a sustainable and zero carbon sector. The agreements are intended to lead countries and megacities to contribute to a sector phase out of fossil fuel CO2 emissions by 2050. The process of negotiations under the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) are expected to enhance global cooperation among and between architects, urban planners, designers, and manufacturers of building related products and services. Some key initiatives that cities and nations have been taking include:
- The U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Section 433), and Executive Order 13423, requiring all new federal buildings and major renovations to be zero carbon by 2030
- The EU has proclaimed that all new buildings in its member states will be nearly zero-energy by 2020
Urban 2030 Districts, made up of private/public partnerships in five U.S. cities, has set up incremental district-wide energy, water, and transportation emissions reduction targets to 50% in large urban areas by 2030
- In 2013, the 2030 Palette, a freely accessible, user-driven online platform, was launched to highlight the principles, actions, and tools behind low-carbon/zero-carbon and adaptive built environments. It is used to bring green building tactics from regions, cities and communities, to buildings and building elements to professionals and non-professionals worldwide
Another important solution moving forward is net zero green building. A net-zero energy building, is a building with zero net energy consumption, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on a yearly basis is about equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site. In order for net-zero building to become feasible worldwide, it will need the backing of both state and national governments. The WGBC is working hard to get their support, and in June 2016, the WGBC launched a new project entitled Advancing Net Zero, including the construction of eight green building council's committed to introducing a ‘net green zero’ certification. The WGBC believes that in order “to get to the 2 °C target all green buildings and renovations should be at net zero starting in 2030; that means no buildings should be built below net zero standards beyond 2030,” further suggesting that all buildings should be net zero buildings by 2050.
In large part, national governments have begun to take the first steps in recognizing our global building emissions problem, and the particular need to address development in cities. Both governments and nonprofits have proposed initial steps and plans, such as the Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI) of the WGBC, which supports national green building councils (GBCs) in their relationships with local governments around the world with the aim of creating greener, more sustainable cities everywhere, and the Advancing Net Zero Project, which sets in place plans to construct eight green building council's committed to introducing a ‘net green zero’ certification. It is important to remember that the challenge to meet our global green building goals will not only require the concerted efforts of our national governments and global organizations, but also the efforts of states, cities, businesses, local organizations, and people around the world to accomplish this feat. We still have a lot of work to do, but as the world’s architects, construction workers, government officials, and regular citizens come together to recognize the need to “green” our cities, we will no doubt be able to drive sustainable city agendas and fundamentally shift the structure, look, and atmosphere of our urban environments.
Are you interested in learning more about worldwide green building policies and initiatives? Check out the following sources for more information:
- Filed Under: Climate Change
- Keywords : Green Building, Climate Change, Sustainable Cities, Urban Development, Green Cities, IPCC, UNEP
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I am highly motivated college student with strong leadership, organizational, and interpersonal skills. I am very interested in political science, economics, and language and cultural studies, and I intend on pursuing each of these throughout my college experience. My goal is to finish out my undergraduate years with degrees in both international studies and economics with a minor in political science. I hope to work my way up through state government and then onto the national government to promote an environmental economic agenda that will bring the US closer to reaching its climate goals.
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