Canberra night

28 JUNE 2011 –  [UPDATED 5 JULY 2011] Last week, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) released a paper, Putting a price on pollution: what it means for Australia’s property and construction industry.

In it, we outlined the rationale and mechanics for pricing carbon and how this will affect the property and construction industry.

The GBCA does support a price on pollution – provided that it is supported by a range of complementary measures, is part of an integrated strategy for market transformation and involves close consultation with industry.

The GBCA believes an emissions trading scheme or other carbon pricing mechanism may be one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways for Australia to meet its international carbon reduction targets, while at the same time boosting investment in green technologies and stimulating new sectors of the economy, potentially leading to a global competitive advantage.

But, to capitalise fully on the potential of the built environment, a carbon price must be complemented by a range of integrated measures that support energy and materials efficiencies within the property and construction industry.

So, what do we mean by “complementary measures”?

Energy efficiency incentives such as tax breaks and white certificates, investment in research, development and commercialisation of low-emissions technologies, and mandatory disclosure are just three. Talking with some of the other 85 green building councils around the world reveals just how effective both financial incentives and non-financial (or ‘structured’) incentives can be within different markets.

The latest report produced by Ross Garnaut recommends that $400 million of revenue generated by an emissions trading scheme should be spent on energy efficiency measures over the first four years of the scheme.  Garnaut also suggests that the federal government should aim to eventually spend up to $3 billion each year on research, development and commercialisation of low-emissions technologies.

We already know a few of the complementary measures, which demonstrate the government’s ‘carrot and stick’ approach.  The Tax Breaks for Green Buildings program is scheduled to commence on 1 July 2012, and the Commercial Building Disclosure scheme is already underway.

Of course, complementary measures must also go hand-in-hand with closer collaboration between industry, government and non-government organisations such as the GBCA.  By working together, we can overcome some of the current market failures – and in particular the skills gaps – which hinder our transition to a low-carbon economy.

Putting a price on pollution: what it means for Australia’s property and construction industry can be downloaded from the GBCA’s website:

The fifth Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP), held in June, was certainly our most effective, despite the attempts of a Chilean ash cloud to diminish our numbers.

BEMP is an annual conversation between parliamentarians and industry leaders that showcases the relationship between Australian communities and their built environment.

As minister for infrastructure and transport, Anthony Albanese, reminded the audience: “by coming to this particular building each year, you place these most important issues directly in the glare of the national spotlight.”

Our keynote speaker, [from Harvard ] Edward Glaeser, was among those grounded by lingering volcanic ash.  His presentation via video link from the US was a literal demonstration of his thesis: that cities, and humanity, thrive when intelligent, motivated people work in close proximity for collaboration and competition. The erratic quality of the early stages of the video link reminded us why there’s no replacement for face-to-face connection and close proximity.

BEMP is a collaboration of leading built environment industry voices including the Australian Institute of Architects, Consult Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia, the Planning Institute of Australia and the Property Council of Australia.

Romilly Madew

This year’s dialogue also engaged minister for sustainability, environment, water, population and communities Tony Burke, shadow minister for climate action, environment and heritage, Greg Hunt, and Australian Greens senator, Scott Ludlam.  MPs Kelly O’Dwyer and Gai Brodtmann sat on a panel session and number of politicians, including Malcolm Turnbull, dropped by to listen to the conversation.

The BEMP partners had a united message, and that message was to make cities a priority. Australia’s cities support 80 per cent of our population and contribute around 80 per cent of our GDP. An integrated approach to urban management policy across all three spheres of

government is required to ensure we meet the challenges of managing population growth, improving liveability and transitioning the nation to a low-carbon economy.

So, will we get a minister for cities?

Some thought we were dreaming, others were more optimistic. What is clear is that our cities are facing a future of transport gridlock, rising greenhouse gas emissions and eroded quality of life unless we take decisive action.  An integrated and collaborative approach is mandatory if we are to foster a culture of innovation and excellence, and ensure our cities are liveable, affordable and sustainable.

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