Romilly Madew

31 March 2010 – The Australian Government’s Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill is currently being debated in federal Parliament.

If passed, the Bill will require non-residential commercial buildings to disclose their energy efficiency to potential purchasers or lessees.

The Green Building Council of Australia welcomes the introduction of the Bill, as mandatory disclosure is one important element in Australia’s response to climate change.

As Minister Combet said recently, mandatory disclosure is a “step in the right direction” – but there is more work that both government and industry can do to unlock the abatement potential of commercial buildings.

Research by the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council and the Centre for International Economics has found that the building sector is responsible for 23 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, electricity use in residential and commercial buildings can be halved by 2030 through energy efficiency measures alone. The United Nations Environment Programme has stated that ‘no other sector has such a high potential for drastic emission reductions’.

The GBCA believes that energy efficiency is only one aspect of environmental performance.

We would like to see the Australian Government consider how mandatory disclosure could be expanded to capture other aspects of commercial buildings’ environmental performance.

Once the federal government’s mandatory disclosure scheme for energy efficiency has been bedded down, it would be appropriate to explore ways of expanding it to cover, at the very least, water efficiency and indoor environment quality.

The new Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Bill is just one of a number of regulatory measures and discussion papers which clearly demonstrate the Australian Government’s commitment to tackling climate change.

While the GBCA is delighted to see the Australian Government recognising the importance of buildings in this debate, we’d also like to see a joint industry-government ‘roadmap’ which clearly signposts the steps towards 2020, and a single department for the built environment that oversees its implementation.

This would ensure these policies complement each other and don’t create a green compliance burden.  The last thing we want is to lose the leadership gains – through the introduction of Green Star and other measures – that the industry has made voluntarily.