Navigant Research Blog

Will COP21 Help Keep a Spotlight on Buildings?

Casey Talon — December 11, 2015

Buildings have been given a place in the spotlight, or at least they were for a day on December 3 at the world’s convention on climate change, COP21, in Paris. The emissions estimates make a statement: one-third of the global carbon footprint stems from energy use in buildings. If left unfettered, these emissions could triple by 2050. It is evident this reality has sunk in, for buildings are a necessary target for emissions reductions and the actions required for these reductions can make good business sense.

Registering Commitment

Inspired by the efforts of COP21, the U.K. Green Building Council (GBC) is leading the buildings industry in targeting emissions reductions. In a recent article highlighting the goals, CEO Julie Hirigoyen explained, “The eyes of the world are on Paris, but it is not just down to the politicians to make it a success. There is a clear business case for the construction and real estate sector to cut carbon emissions from buildings. The climate pledge commitments from our members demonstrate the widespread industry support for urgent action, and point to a market that is transforming itself.” The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) made similar commitments to support the aims of COP21, as well. In all, 25 GBCs worldwide joined the effort with goals for climate change mitigation.

In advance of the conference, USGBC and Ceres launched the Building and Real Estate Climate Declaration. These companies (125 and counting) have made a call for national climate policies and support of the Clean Power Plan. The voluntary registration of green buildings is an important step in bringing transparency and accountability to corporate climate commitments for commercial buildings.

The Business Impact

Tackling greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is good for sustainability reporting, and it also delivers economic and business value. Navigant Research suggests intelligent building solutions are effective tools for supporting these corporate commitments to emissions reductions. Beyond reducing a building’s carbon impact, the benefits of investing in intelligent building solutions include reduced energy and operational costs.

Intelligent lighting and heating, ventilating, and air conditioning controls, for example, can coordinate system performance to reduce energy consumption while improving the occupant experience. A building energy management system can direct automated system improvements through automation and controls or manual improvements, and the benefits are wide reaching. The operational improvements can not only deliver energy savings for GHG emissions reductions, but can also generate the business intelligence that brings benefits to the bottom line.

In the end, even if national policy continues to wane in the political winds of the Capitol, there is hope for targeting buildings in the fight against climate change. The demands of business leaders—like those signing onto programs at the COP21 Buildings Day—are being heard at the local level. More momentum in city policy can lead the way. As explained in the newest C40 report, “Globally, the greatest opportunity for mayors to reduce GHG emissions is in urban building energy use.”

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