Green buildings take centre stage at COP22

Created: November 18, 2016. Updated: January 15, 2018.

Following the success of the first Buildings Day at COP21 in Paris, last year, the UN’s COP22 Climate Change conference in Marrakech featured a further Buildings Day which showed progress being shown worldwide in green construction.

The Marrakech event is seen very much as ‘Action COP’. It was less about wrangling over specific text in a treaty, and more about what steps will be taken immediately to meet the terms of the treaty, and to close the emissions gap (the difference between meeting the Paris target of  2/1.5 degrees of global warming and the current projections in line with countries’ Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) which project to 3.4C of warming).

The WorldGBC and its members had a strong presence at COP22 demonstrated that it is working hard to meet the commitments made at COP21 last year.

11 Green Building Councils up from three last year have committed to introducing net zero certification; 1,000 major actors on renovation have been convened by GBCs across Europe through the BUILD UPON project; and GBCs from Colombia to the UAE continue to advance individual plans such as sustainable housing and technical guidelines for retrofitting.

The changing political winds should not and will not slow us down as a green building movement, commented Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGCB.  “In the words of the USGBC CEO  “Green buildings are not, and have never been, a partisan issue”. 

Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC

Terri Wills, CEO of WorldGBC

“We must work harder to clearly prove the business case, the health and wellbeing, and the social and economic benefits, and the case for climate action,” Wills said. “And we must continue to work with those demonstrating leadership – countries, cities, companies – to help show the way.”

Last year, countries joined together at Buildings Day to share their own buildings strategies and policies, but also to learn more about the global green building movement and the WorldGBC, its member Green Building Councils, and their members. 

Now, more than 22 countries have joined the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GABC), in which WorldGBC plays a central role. This year, WorldGBC was contracted by UNEP – which hosts the GABC secretariat – to help organise parts of Buildings Day and surrounding events, and to involve the local GBC – Morocco Green Building Council – in organising the event but also capacity building and strategic development of a plan for the MENA region.

According to the GABC Global Status Report, launched at COP22, 90 countries now include some mention of building sector actions in their NDCs.  Through the Alliance, WorldGBC  continues to work with member GBCs to strengthen relationships with national governments, and create partnerships that support implementation of countries’ NDCs.

“It is undeniable that action is taking place, and the ‘Action COP’ and its Buildings Day has proved this, Terri Willis said. “But the need for further and faster action is urgent. We only have hundreds of net zero emissions buildings globally, but we need hundreds of millions.”

The Sustainable Development Goals have been launched, but  better evidence is needed as well as action on how green building can benefit not just the climate, but the wider development agenda.

And while we have a Paris Agreement, we have not yet secured a 2 degree future through current commitments. So as a movement, the action from this COP must continue – and we will not stop until we have achieved green buildings for everyone, everywhere.  

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