I’ve been fortunate in my career to have benefited from good on-the-job training often in areas (as a scientist) that didn’t seem relevant to me, but it turns out as I’ve progressed from technical to managerial roles they became very relevant.
One was a great course on negotiation. I went into it thinking this is a waste of time and I should be reasonably good at it: I’d be thoughtful about who I was negotiating with and what they wanted and what I wanted to achieve. I discovered I was nothing like as good as I thought I’d be.
First, in understanding what mattered to my opponent, not just what they needed and wanted, but also what vulnerabilities they had that could be exploited. Above all, I had not appreciated the importance of opening gambits — the start of the negotiation where both sides lay out their expectations. It was an ah-ha moment for me to learn that 80 per cent of negotiation is over when opening gambits are stated, because the dance of negotiation is certain to end at close to the mid-point between these positions. The majority of the time spent in negotiation involves shadow-boxing on add-ons and concessions which modify the central point of the negotiation.
So, what has this got to do with the National Construction Code updates currently being negotiated? Well, the opening gambit presented in the public comment draft updates and the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement (CRIS) was between 6-star energy efficiency and 7-star energy efficiency and we were effectively being presented with the choice between no change at all (6-star) and a small improvement (7-star) with the CRIS making a bogus argument that 7-star was not economically justified. A bogus argument because they arbitrarily chose to add up all the additional costs to householders for the 7-star changes but consider the benefits to householders as a loss to energy companies and therefore transactional in the economy as a whole.
In an economy all costs to one stakeholder are a benefit to another — all costs and benefits are transactional, so to single out benefits to the homeowner as uniquely transactional was roundly criticised.
The only beneficiaries of the CRIS accounting were the energy suppliers and in particular the fossil fuel industries — presumably a politically motivated decision.
Section 7 of the CRIS revealed the true story by considering affordability for the householder (that is, the public). The 7-star change made homes even more affordable because the energy-cost savings exceeded any additions to the mortgage for the improved efficiency measures. The only beneficiaries of the CRIS accounting were the energy suppliers and in particular the fossil fuel industries — presumably a politically motivated decision.
Meanwhile, it is now accepted that the main purpose of building regulation is no longer economic (energy efficiency), it is now greenhouse gas emissions that contribute significantly to the existential threat of climate change.
In this case, the opening gambit offered SHOULD have included a third option, the net zero home. By offering just 6-star and 7-star energy efficiency options as opening gambits, the public consultation was manipulated.
If the net zero home were included in the options, it proves to be even more affordable for new homeowners from day one than the 7-star energy efficient home in every climate zone (except in Tasmania where the costs/benefits break even).
Regulating net zero emission homes has an overriding important non-financial benefit — it would ensure that no new home built in Australia adds to the emissions that compromise the future for our children and grandchildren.
It’s impossible to overstate how important and urgent this is.
Paraphrasing Professor Will Steffen, corroborated by the breakaway group of IPCC scientists and by former UK Chief Scientist, Professor Sir David King and his Cambridge research group (CCAG) we now have a mere handful of years to radically decarbonise globally if we are to avoid triggering the last climate feedback loops that will cause the climate to tip unstoppably to 4-6°C of warming — unsurvivable by our species and 90 per cent of others.
To ignore this is to either deny climate science, or just not care and be a psychopath toward future generations.
In the approval of three coal mines, the federal environment minister Sussan Ley has shown contempt for the law by ignoring the judgement that she has a “duty of care” for future generations in a case brought by eight schoolchildren and an octogenarian nun.
We know where our federal government stands. Just as we have denied COVID health advice to find it all goes horribly wrong, we are now ignoring climate science and it WILL go cataclysmically wrong for our entire species if we don’t change radically and fast.
So where do you think states and territories should be setting the code? The options are:
no change with the 6-star energy efficiency recommended by the CRIS, when Australians already shamefully have the largest per capita emissions globally
- a small improvement with 7-star energy efficiency – we’d still have the highest emissions per capita!
- net zero homes, which don’t contribute to trashing our kids’ and grandkids’ survivable futures AND are more affordable for new homeowners from day one
This is surely a no-brainer, but the word on the street is that ABCB is opting for the 7-star energy efficiency option with a “pathway” to net zero. Given that it’s immediately cheaper for net zero homeowners NOW, why the delay?
Why are our new homeowners being deprived of these mandated benefits?
Why does there need to be any pathway? When do we reach net zero on this pathway – within a handful of years, by 2030, 2040 or 2050?
The energy provisions of this code were last updated 13 years ago, so is that the timescale? If so, that’s far too late for a survivable future.
What is proposed is madness and psychopathy toward our own kids and grandkids. There’s no excuse for anything less than Net Zero Now. If not now, then when?
Nigel Howard founded the Edge Environment Consultancy in Manly and is now sole trading as Clarity Environment.