Friday, December 11, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Conference Should Emphasize Building Sector to Fight Climate Change at Low Cost, Experts Say

/PRNewswire/ -- The Copenhagen climate change talks should focus on the existing building sector to create massive reductions in global emissions and create new jobs, say the authors of a new book on property retrofits around the globe.

"The existing real estate sector is typically overlooked at the climate change table," says Leanne Tobias, founder of Malachite LLC, a leading green real estate consultancy. "That stance neglects the UN's own findings on the best ways to fight global warming." Tobias and Malachite colleague George Vavaroutsos are the principal authors of Retrofitting Office Buildings to be Green and Energy-Efficient, the authoritative new guide to sustainable building renovation around the world.

Tobias and Vavaroutsos cite the UN's own data showing that building upgrades are among the most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. After reviewing over 80 studies on buildings and energy use, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change determined that cost-effective energy efficiency measures in buildings could reduce building emissions by 30% from the 2020 estimated baseline. This would eliminate approximately 3.2 gigatons of CO2 - or a 7 to 10 percent reduction in 2020 estimated total climate emissions.

Fundamental improvements include:

-- Improved building insulation
-- Higher heating and cooling efficiencies
-- Energy-efficient lighting
-- Reduced plug load through energy-efficient appliances

"These strategies rely on proven and easily-applied technologies, whose use would create jobs rapidly," Vavaroutsos says. The book tracks the use of building retrofits around the globe, including China, Australia, the EU, Canada and the U.S. Many projects paid back their costs in less than a year and almost all attained payback in five years or fewer. A sample of U.S. properties paid back their costs in approximately 17 months. "Our research shows that retrofitting buildings results in energy and water conservation, the creation of jobs, and better financial results for owners and investors," says Tobias.

"The Copenhagen Summit should take steps to incorporate property upgrades into the global carbon trading system," say Tobias and Vavaroutsos. To date, few retrofit projects have been undertaken under the Kyoto framework. As of October 2008, only ten projects to reduce building energy use were in the international carbon trading pipeline of over 4,000 projects.

The United Nations' Sustainable Building & Construction Initiative has recommended revising the global carbon trading framework to encourage additional participation by the property sector. Recommended reforms include developing national regulations and standards for building energy efficiency and/or sustainable building; developing common baselines and building benchmarks for carbon trading; and instituting the use of performance indicators, such as energy use per square foot or square meter for ongoing monitoring and verification.

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