Romilly Madew: “Realising the full abatement potential within the property sector will save the Australian economy around $38 billion annually by 2050.”

Commercial and residential buildings account for 23 per cent of Australia’s annual emissions – making the built environment sector vital in any carbon pollution reduction scheme.

The Australian Government’s proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) won’t have an impact on Australia’s built environment, and so won’t achieve reductions in the very sector where emissions are both significant and most easily achieved.

This means a range of other measures to achieve those reductions are required.

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that buildings offer the single largest source of greenhouse gas abatement – more than the industry, transport and energy sectors combined.

The IPCC’s research is backed up by McKinsey and Company’s Pathways to a Low-Carbon Economy, which has demonstrated that this abatement comes at negative cost to GDP – that is, abatement in the built environment actually saves the economy money.

In addition, the Centre for International Economics on behalf of the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) has found that realising the full abatement potential within the property sector will save the Australian economy around $38 billion annually by 2050.

Furthermore, investing in energy efficiency within the built environment will reduce the price for permits under the CPRS by around 14 percent – which has an obvious economy-wide impact.

ASBEC’s Second Plank report concludes that if a range of complementary measures – that is measures promoting energy efficiency in the built environment that are complementary to the CPRS – are implemented, then greenhouse gas savings in the order of 60Mt per annum are achievable by 2030 which represents a 27-31 per cent reduction on baseline projections.

Significantly, if these measures aren’t introduced and the resulting price signal from the CPRS alone is relied upon, then only 8Mt per year of abatement in the property sector is realised by 2030 which is around 3-4 per cent of baseline.

The Green Building Council of Australia believes that a second industrial revolution is required and that revolution – a green industrial revolution – will have the same tangible benefits to the global economy as the first industrial revolution.

Romilly Madew is chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia. This article is an extract from a submission to the Senate Select Committee on Climate Policy in Brisbane On 28 April.