The Australian Government has pledged to reduce national emissions by 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris climate change agreement. Ministers have also endorsed further international moves to combat climate change and move towards a low-carbon future.

Changes in the built environment will be essential to achieving these goals. Almost 40 per cent of global energy-related greenhouse emissions come from buildings, according to the World Green Building Council.

The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) recommends that all new buildings should be emissions-neutral by 2030, with existing buildings to follow by 2050.  Practically, this will require changes to energy efficiency requirements, the disclosure of energy efficiency in buildings, and the national construction code.

Practical incentives may also be required to support building upgrades. The GBCA has provided one such incentive by updating its Green Star voluntary rating and certification system for sustainable design, construction and operation of buildings.

To achieve a Green Star rating, new building owners must reduce embodied carbon by at least 10 per cent. A six-star rating can be achieved by using 100 per cent renewable energy while being 40 to 50 per cent more energy efficient than today’s building code requirements.