Politicians are on side: climate change must be slowed. Here Romilly Madew presents Leader of the Opposition, Malcolm Turnbull, with a Leading Green Thinkers Award

“Reports of the death of green are greatly exaggerated,” said the Green Building Council of Australia’s (GBCA’s) Chairman, Tony Arnel, at Green Cities 09, held in Brisbane recently.

The message from all international keynote speakers and political leaders was the same: the slowing of global economic growth is a golden opportunity to shift the world’s climate change trajectory, while creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

“While there have been fears that the financial crisis will subdue the growing impetus for green building, there is a real opportunity for it to be a defining catalyst for investment in a sustainable built environment,” Tony said.

There is now widespread public acceptance that climate change is real, and that we must act swiftly to stop irreversible damage to our planet.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says if global emissions continue to grow at their historic pace we can expect global temperatures to rise between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. To stop this happening, deep emission cuts are required.

But that doesn’t mean we must choose between saving the global economy and saving the planet.

McKinsey & Company has just released an update of its Pathways to a Low-Carbon Economy report, which finds that taking action on climate change is affordable.

By 2030, wind, solar and other sustainable renewable energy could provide almost a third of all global power needs; energy efficiency could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than a quarter and deforestation in developing countries could be almost fully halted. All at a cost of less than half a percent of global GDP.

The McKinsey Report says that energy efficiency measures in the building sector alone could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5 billion tonnes a year by 2030.

What’s more, three quarters of the total abatement potential in the building sector could deliver net economic benefits, with the remainder at very low cost.

US President Barack Obama reconfirmed the importance of green building to change the world’s climate change trajectory when he said recently: “We must act quickly and we must act boldly to transform our entire economy – from our cars and our fuels to our factories and our buildings.”

Every challenge brings with it opportunity, and the Green Building Council is determined to ensure we realise every opportunity that the current economic climate brings.

Romilly Madew is Chief Executive, Green Building Council of Australia