On 19 April 2016 in Paris I was privileged to play a part in the history of the global building and construction industry by attending the inaugural meeting of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (Global ABC) where an international pledge was made to significantly reduce carbon emissions through improved building, design and planning practices. Discussions also covered how this alliance can contribute to keeping world warming to the goal of under 1.5 to 2.0 degrees Celsius – with a focus placed on research and knowledge sharing.
At the meeting I signed a Memorandum of Understanding to be part of the Global ABC, which was initiated by the United Nations and officially launched at COP21 at the end of last year. The signing was undertaken in my role as chief executive of the CRC for Low Carbon Living – the only Australian organisation involved.
Signing this agreement is a great responsibility for the 20 countries and 60 organisations represented. This is due to the fact that the buildings and construction sector is responsible for 30 per cent of Global CO2 emissions which is tipped to reach 50 per cent by 2050 due to rapid urbanisation in emerging economies, making these countries, regions and communities vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The individuals and organisations in the Global ABC are therefore fully committed to making major industry changes and to follow its three key objectives: to communicate, collaborate and provide solutions on low carbon building and construction practices – objectives fully shared by the CRCLCL.
One of the key observations made by the Global ABC members was the importance placed on the considerable role developed countries can play in sharing knowledge with the less developed. This knowledge is evidence for design, planning and policy innovations plus the availability of tools, data, technologies and systems. Ultimately such knowledge sharing can help governments and industry decision makers make informed choices or set up sustainable building codes, knowing the information they use is credible and accepted by industry experts and researchers.
This is where the CRCLCL’s role in the Global ABC will have the greatest impact as not only does it currently share its research in the public domain, a new project commencing this month called the Low Carbon Built Environment Knowledge Hub project will present research evidence in an even more succinct and user friendly way. Once complete this knowledge hub will be the global source of information for government and industry decision makers across the globe.
The project has two phases. The first will set up the hub’s technological platform. This is being created by experts at the Swinburne University and the Australian Policy Online Project and in collaboration with the UN and the International Energy Agency to ensure it is a globally relevant platform.
The second phase will embrace strategic reviews, quality assurance and relevant testing by leading experts from around the world. This will entail a process of systematic review to look at the independence, science and methodology behind research to make sure what is published in the Knowledge Hub is peer reviewed, credible and relevant for use by policy and decision makers.
The medical world has an evidence-based research portal called Cochrane, an information source used by medical practitioners around the world to make life-saving decisions for patients, and is respected as the top medical knowledge base. However the built environment does not have such an equivalent and this is what we will create through the CRCLCL and Global ABC.
Currently information on the built environment is too often based on anecdotal or small sample studies, but this is changing and the Knowledge Hub will provide the methodology to ensure the systematic review picks up quality evidence suitable for the built environment sector for design, planning and policy innovations.
This is a very important project for Australia and the world, which will be completed by July 2018 with much news and development to report along the way. I therefore wish to invite those working in the built environment arena to be aware of this project and its global implications.
We all have a common goal to reduce our carbon footprint and sharing key evidence to help create low carbon built environments is a must for this challenge.
Scientia Professor Dr Deo Prasad is chief executive of the CRC for Low Carbon Living.