A new Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) report released today during World Green Building Week is demonstrating how a greener built environment can combat climate change and stimulate economic growth. The report, titled Building Solutions to Climate Change: How Green Buildings Can Help Meet Canada’s 2030 Emissions Targets outlines the CaGBC’s response to the Vancouver Declaration on Clean Growth and Climate Change, which committed Canada to meeting or exceeding the federal government’s 2030 target of a 30 per cent reduction below 2005 levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The report makes four key recommendations aimed at meeting Canada’s climate change targets while fueling the growth of Canada’s sustainable building industry. Targeting existing buildings with measures that improve energy efficiency and reduce GHG emissions, along with innovation toward net zero carbon buildings are key in achieving national emission targets. The recommendations are substantiated by research from WSP Group and Acton White Associates, commissioned to examine the carbon savings potential of existing buildings and net zero buildings, and also to analyze the required investment and economic benefits.
The four key recommendations in the report are:
- Meet Canada’s climate change targets by investing in and providing incentives for energy efficiency improvements (including recommissioning, deep retrofits, renewable onsite energy systems, and switching fuel sources to renewable options) in existing buildings commercial, institutional and high-rise residential buildings over 25,000 sq. ft. The report finds that if such measures are taken by 2030, Canada will reduce GHG emissions by 19.4 million CO2e tonnes (or 44 per cent) from the 2005 baseline, with energy-related cost savings of $6.2 billion and direct and indirect GDP impacts of $32.5 billion.
- Strengthen building performance by advancing building energy benchmarking, reporting and disclosure initiatives – including expanding the ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager Program. To date, over 13,000 buildings have used Portfolio Manager, but investment is needed to expand this service to support a wider range of buildings types, and provide more dynamic reporting capabilities to help the industry and government advance energy conservation efforts.
- Invest in net zero buildings by supporting a National Net Zero Building Initiative to create a Canadian standard to guide the industry. The report finds that if all new buildings above 25,000 sq. ft. were built to be net zero carbon between now and 2030, GHG emissions for this sector would be 17 percent lower than those in 2005, equal to a 7.5 megatonnes GHG emissions reduction.
- Reduce the government’s GHG Emissions by adopting advanced high-performance green building measures for federal building renovations, new construction and leased properties, and, where appropriate, net zero demonstration projects for new construction. Implementing energy efficiency programs for federally-owned buildings over 25,000 sq.ft, which account for three to five per cent of building sector emissions, will result in 480,000 tonnes of GHG emissions reductions and cost savings of approximately $170 million, annually.
“Building on a culture of innovation in Canada’s green building sector, this report demonstrates how we can achieve real results in the battle against climate change by investing in the building sector,” says CaGBC president and CEO Thomas Mueller. “Buildings represent the most cost-effective way to reduce GHG emissions, generate positive returns on investment, and stimulate the economy. Now is the time for governments at all levels to show leadership and commit to policy initiatives that meet stringent high performance standards, while engaging and supporting broader uptake of lower carbon measures across the existing building sector.”
As a result of the adoption of green building upgrades, the report says that 16 sectors across the supply chain in Canada would be stimulated through the creation of jobs and the development of green expertise. They include: manufacturing, professional services, trade, real estate, construction and telecommunications sectors. The resulting employment gains from these initiatives would average 260,741 equivalent full-time jobs annually, with labour income peaks in 2030 at $26.8 billion (in current dollars). Additionally, construction activity in 2030 alone would generate $5.2 billion in taxes accruing to the federal, provincial and municipal orders of government, and the social cost of the GHG emissions avoided would be $960 million (in 2030 dollars).
To download the Building Solutions to Climate Change report and to read about CaGBC’s ongoing advocacy work, visit cagbc.org/advocacy.