by Romilly Madew…

At the opening of the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit 2009 in Seoul last week, Mayor of Toronto and C40 Chair, David Miller, told the audience that we were witnessing the “dawn of the new industrial revolution – a green dawn.”

The C40 is a group of the world’s largest cities already taking action on climate change. It holds its biennial summit to share best practices, build networks, identify collaborative projects and chart future actions to help tackle climate change. The Clinton Climate Initiative became the delivery partner of the C40 in 2006.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) attended the four-day Summit, which featured former President Bill Clinton addressing representatives from 70 global cities, who came together to outline a radical vision for green cities.

Cities provide both challenges and opportunities in the context of climate change. The UN forecasts that today’s urban population of 3.2 billion will rise to nearly 5 billion by 2030, at which time three out of five people will live in cities.

To put this in context, in 1800 only 3 per cent of the world’s population lived in cities. By the end of the twentieth century, this figure had risen to 47 per cent. In 1950, there were 83 cities with populations exceeding one million. By 2007, this had skyrocketed to 468 cities. Cities occupy just two per cent of the world’s landmass, and yet are responsible for more than two-thirds of energy use and global greenhouse gas emissions.

We need to move beyond greening our buildings – which we are already doing very effectively in Australia – and begin to look at how to green our precincts and our communities.

So how do we do this?

The Green Building Council of Australia firmly believes that industry leadership and voluntary mechanisms play a crucial role in greening our cities.

Australia’s industry leadership is already recognised internationally. Since the GBCA was established in 2002, it has grown to more than 770 organisations, making it the world’s second largest green building council after the USA.

We launched the Green Star voluntary environmental rating system in 2003, and since then have certified more than 155 Green Star certified buildings – with over 400 buildings registered for Green Star.

There is approximately 14.7 million square metres of CBD office space in Australia. Of that, around 11 per cent is Green Star certified. Today, few new buildings in CBD areas would be built without attaining Green Star certification.

Clearly, we’re heading in the right direction with our buildings. We have the tools and the industry leadership to drive the green agenda brick-by-brick, building-by-building.

However, industry leadership must now be re-engineered to ensure we can rapidly take on the challenge of greening our cities.

Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work – both now and in the future.

They are well planned, built and operated, they meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, are sensitive to their environment, and contribute to a high quality of life for all the people who live there.

That’s our challenge – and our opportunity.

Romilly Madew is Chief Executive of the Green Building Council of Australia