Following the Federal Government’s recent announcement that it will invest $1.9 billion in new and emerging technologies to lower emissions, the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) has made calls to also accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral economy.
AIA CEO Julia Cambage said last summer’s catastrophic bushfires were a brutal demonstration of how urgent it is that collective action is taken to limit the severity of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to proactively plan for a more hostile climate.
“The announcement last week of additional funding for energy productivity measures and the release this week of the inaugural technology investment roadmap are important steps forward, but the Australian Government has an opportunity to drive even faster and more widespread change,” she said.
“The number of organisations, government entities, big and small businesses across diverse sectors of the economy committed to a net-zero emissions future grows daily.”
“The Institute has already joined more than 200 of its members to date on the journey to become carbon neutral.”
Ms Cambage noted there is a clear opportunity for the Australian Government to harness this growing commitment to achieve economy-wide net zero emissions by 2050 in line with the Paris Agreement, but there is also scope to accelerate the pace of change in high-performing sectors like the built environment by setting an earlier 2030 target.
“This would create dual benefits by increasing jobs while reducing emissions,” she said.
“Energy efficiency measures in our buildings are cost-effective and employment-intensive yet they have been relegated to a second-tier priority in this first roadmap despite building and construction accounting for nearly 40 per cent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions globally.”
Immediate Past National President and Chair of the Climate Action and Sustainability Taskforce Professor Helen Lochhead said it was crucial to get to net-zero or better to prevent the worst climate change impacts.
“The architectural profession is leading the drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while working to ensure our built environment is able to adapt and respond to new climate norms,” Prof Lochhead said.
“Australia must enhance the resilience of our built environment to extreme weather events and predicted climate change impacts. Design plays a critical role in integrating systems, including energy, water and waste management as well as local ecologies and culture, to promote human health and well-being.”
“Growth in our urban and rural cities means increasing pressures on our natural environment and the crucial ecosystem services they provide such as clean air and cooler urban areas.”
“We must create a more sustainable built environment that fosters connectivity and integrates essential resources and functions to mitigate against adverse impacts from climate change.”
Prof Lochhead said that through the taskforce, they are working to develop a range of policies and programs to create practical solutions for architects to deploy to address these challenges.
“To support these efforts, we urge the Australian Government to establish a national plan towards zero carbon buildings and set strong minimum standards for the energy performance of buildings and appliances. Incentives for the private sector to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies together with clear targets and timeframes will accelerate the transition to a carbon-neutral economy,” she commented.