20 August 2010 – Here’s a hypothetical: The new Federal Government is sworn in on Monday morning. The very first thing it does is convene a “citizen’s assembly” from key parts of the sustainable property industry to ask them what are the five most important things that it should do to fast-track a more sustainable built environment.

Ready with their answers will be:  Lend Lease Group Head of Sustainability Maria Atkinson, Melbourne City Council’s Cathy Oke, The Green Building Council chief executive  Romilly Madew, Thinc Projects and KnowChange organiser Elena Bondareva, and Morphosis director Simon Carter.

Here’s what they will say:

Maria Atkinson

Maria Atkinson, group head of sustainability, Lend Lease Corporation

  1. Recognise the critical importance of buildings in Australia’s Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action  plan
  2. Support the global project developing common carbon metrics for the building sector (recognising the need for sector specific metrics that have global application) which will allow the sector and policymakers alike to measure, verify and report the carbon and energy intensity of all Australian buildings
  3. Align all existing policy frameworks such as the  Commercial Building Disclosure scheme with these metrics to ensure simple, accurate, least cost, meaningful measurement of carbon and energy intensity of all Australian buildings
  4. Establish benchmarks for each building type in each climatic region
  5. For each building type in each climatic region, set a 15-year trajectory for carbon emissions reduction – to drive action, and at the same time provide investment certainty for the sector.

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Cathy Oke

Dr Cathy Oke, Greens Councillor, City of Melbourne

The Federal Government can certainly work better with local government on sustainability projects, given Local Government has been leading the way with on-ground action to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change.

To achieve the zero net emissions, to adapt to climate change and create a city as a catchment, a city like Melbourne needs support from the Federal Government to:

  1. Invest in large scale renewable energy technology in urban and rural areas, connected to upgraded electricity grid infrastructure
  2. Invest in medium density affordable housing along public transport corridors
  3. Put a price on carbon that allows security for investment in renewable technology and retrofitting projects
  4. Support decentralised water collection and storage projects/investment in water sensitive urban design technology to drought proof our parks and gardens and to reduce the heat island effect.

Romilly Madew, chief executive Green Building Council of Australia

Romilly Madew

The next three years will determine whether green building practices become “normal practice”, rather than just “best practice”.  Regardless of which party wins government, the GBCA would like to see it address our five priorities, which we believe will help transition Australia’s green building practices from voluntary to vital.

  1. Provide visionary government leadership
    Strong leadership is needed to ensure we tackle climate change.  The federal government should demonstrate its commitment and leadership by achieving environmental ratings for every building it owns, occupies or develops, at the time of either refurbishment, retrofitting or development. Work closely with industry to establish a clear, long-term pathway towards a sustainable built environment for Australia.  We also want to see continual increases in the Building Code of Australia (BCA).
  2. Retrofit and improve existing buildings
    The GBCA believes that retrofitting existing stock is the “next frontier” for buildings.  We will work closely with government to establish an existing building strategy, as well as a range of incentives, such as a green depreciation scheme.
  3. Green education and healthcare facilities
    Reference Green Star in education and healthcare guidelines, with certification achieved for at least 50 per cent of projects.  In addition, we are calling on whichever party is elected to create dedicated roundtables on green education and healthcare.  These would disseminate case studies and best practice guidelines and identify funding opportunities.
  4. Move beyond buildings to communities and cities
    Support the Green Star Communities project, with both financial backing and provision of data and information.  We are also calling for an increase in the Green Precincts Fund to provide additional support for precinct, community and neighbourhood projects showing reduced environmental impacts and sharing case study information.  In addition, we’d like to see cohesive urban policy formulated to provide an holistic, integrated approach to climate change mitigation and environmental issues across Australia’s capital cities.
  5. Embed green skills across all industry training
    Support green skills training to broaden the current focus on sustainability beyond energy efficiency to other metrics and improve the dialogue between government and industry stakeholders.  We will also be working closely with the government to ensure an holistic approach is taken to green skills, with integration of sustainability into the nation’s skills base as part of an overall approach, rather than green skills being seen as an “add-on” to current curricula.
Elena Bondareva

Elena Bondareva, sustainability Advisor Thinc (and co-convenor and organiser of the KnowChange network)

  1. Develop compelling scenario(s) for a sustainable future, using a process perhaps similar to that used in South Africa’s scenarios for reconciliation.
  2. Adopt a “genuine progress indicator” as an additional measure and reporting tool of progress (even if GDP is retained as the official one for now)
  3. Adopt a price on carbon. Enough is being said on that
  4. Develop (and ultimately adopt) a strategy (including targets) to de-carbonise the economy. Using groups such as Beyond Zero Emissions Plan and the work of Safe Climate Australia to inform the strategy.
  5. introduce accelerated depreciation for green retrofits of property/infrastructure

Simon Carter, director, Morphosis – sustainability vision and strategy

  1. Simon Carter

    Create a Leaner and Fitter Australia.This doesn’t just apply to personal health; it applies to the consumptive habits of our nation. We are obese and sluggish with regards to what we consume, how we travel, the homes we build and the waste and pollution we create, let alone the infrastructure needed to support all of this. Put Australia on a national diet to become lighter, healthier and fitter. Refocus the nation on the things that really do add to our quality of life including strengthening families and communities, connecting with nature and being creative. Minimise our liability in an increasingly resource-constrained world and make our workforce more productive and innovative.

  2. Make Our Cities “Green, Global and Connected” Our disconnected, sprawling and aging cities are largely economic, social and environmental liabilities when they should be the prized assets for many generations of Australians to come. Stop sprawl and develop plans to deal with the “grey fields” of aging suburbs. Connect our cities together with high-speed rail and broadband networks and ensure we have super-efficient and secure waste, water and power infrastructure. Make nature readily accessible for all and set high standards and incentivise for greatly improved building environmental performance. Nurture flexible ways of working based on performance rather than attendance so that Australian’s can cut the hours of their day spent in transit.
  3. Turn Australia’s Economy into a Knowledge Economy. With the amount of change we are seeing in the world our ability to innovate is going to determine our level of prosperity and our national ability to learn will decide our fate with this. Invest in teaching people how to learn and be creative. Ensure all Australian’s have sufficient understanding of the core dimensions of sustainability such as climate change science, energy and water security, ecological change and global demographic change, such they can effectively prepare themselves and their communities for an increasingly unpredictable future. Show them how to do this preparation, including how to vision new desirable and viable ways of living. Conduct a detailed review of the world’s emerging needs, particularly in clean technologies, and invest in the research and development needed to lead the new markets associated with them.
  4. Take Our Cut of the Global Clean Tech Boom The US, the EU, China and Japan are now all vying to control large portions of the global clean tech boom, a boom that some say has already involved over a trillion dollars of investment since 2007 and will dwarf that of IT. What cut of this multi-trillion dollar pie is Australia going to get? Set a target and provide a national plan to deliver it. Give business certainly about Australia’s future with clean technology. Put a price on carbon and remove subsidies on the technologies and fuels that Australia needs to quickly transition from. Catch up with the world’s leaders by taking on the challenge of delivering a new zero-carbon power infrastructure for this nation in just ten years.
  5. Show Australia Where It Fits in the World In just a few years we will have 7 billion of us living on this planet and in this nation, the world’s 12th largest economy and occupier of one of the world’s seven continents, we number just 22 million. But we surely have an important role to play as our global society takes shape in the face of colossal challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate change and resource security. Show Australia what its role is. What sort of relationship to Indonesia, SE Asia and China are we committed to? Will Australia be a passenger on the bus of the world’s environmental revolution, or will it drive it?