Tony Arnel at the World Green Building Council International Congress, Singapore 2010

World GBC Conference – 14 September 2010 – In his opening remarks to the opening of the World Green Building Council chairman Tony Arnel spoke strongly for the need for the property sectors of of developed nations to bypass the failure of international agreements to reduce carbon and come up with their own voluntary scheme.

Such a scheme would refocus attention on the original aim of emissions trading – for rich countries to buy emission rights by investing in greenhouse reduction projects in developing countries.

Mr Arnel, speaking at the opening of the WGBC International Congress at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore, said the United Nation’s clean development mechanism could facilitate improved living standards for the urban poor and significantly reduce greenhouse emissions.

Following are the key points of Mr Arnel’s statement:

“Buildings in urban areas of the developing world are the single largest source of global greenhouse emissions but they also offer the lowest cost abatement opportunities,” Mr Arnel said.

“What we need is to stimulate interest among rich nations to invest in voluntary carbon offset projects, as well as work towPards the rejuvenation of the CDM, with a clear focus on the building sector.”

It had been forgotten that one of the original aims of emissions trading was for rich countries to buy emission rights by investing in greenhouse-reduction projects in developing countries, Mr Arnel said. Carbon offset credits could underpin an international strategy to reduce net global emission growth while encouraging investment in sustainable development in poorer countries.

“Too often, the objectives of emission reduction and third world development are seen as being in conflict with each other. Sustainable building is one avenue by which they can be aligned.”

Under the UN’s CDM scheme, companies and governments that undertake energy efficiency projects in developing countries are awarded certified emission reduction credits, which can be sold to other companies or governments in the developed world wanting to offset their emissions.

“CDM is emission trading without specific national targets or ‘caps’.”

However, he said that CDM had lost momentum in recent times because of verification difficulties and because its status beyond 2012 was unclear. It was expected to be subsumed into a new international framework but such a framework was not yet in sight.

“While things are stalled, we need practical action, and trading in emission offsets and other sinks between developing and developed countries is one highly desirable action that will have a rapid and significant impact.

“CDM and other voluntary schemes should be ramped up with support from the international community. Urban development could become a new focus of such schemes, with carbon offsets providing a major incentive for investment in energy efficient building in developing countries.”

Mr Arnel said that major new impetus for the scheme would be an internationally-agreed standard for measuring carbon emissions from buildings, such as was currently being developed by the WGBC, in association with the United Nations Environment Program – Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative.

“An easy means of measuring and verifying greenhouse emission reductions from buildings would provide a major surge in interest in carbon offsets across the world,” Mr Arnel said.

“What we need is a renewed political commitment to, and rejuvenation of the CDM and other voluntary trading markets. World GBC will be arguing for such a commitment at the next UN Climate Change Convention in Cancun, Mexico (COP 16), in December this year.

“The rejuvenation of the CDM and other voluntary schemes can be part of a broader international program of action on the building sector.

“Working with UNEP-SBCI, World GBC has developed a template sectoral agreement for the built environment that enables industry and government within each country to agree on emission reduction targets and a program of action to achieve them.

“Sectoral agreements in countries around the world can lead to significant economic and environmental gains. The potential for action in the building sector is evident in the growth of GBCs. World GBC has trebled its membership in the last two years and now covers almost 80 countries, Governments can use the GBCs as powerful agents for change” he said.

“GBCs are so successful because they bring industry and government together to capture emission reduction opportunities that are economically viable.”

The Fifth Estate was a guest of the Green Building Council of Australia at the Congress