Architects at COP26

It is time for Australia to join the leaders of the world who are stepping up to strong targets for emissions reductions – net zero by 2050 and strong targets for 2030. As a country, we need to aspire to improving and aligning with a low emissions future and moving towards achieving carbon neutrality.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its AR6 report, which has been couched as a “code red for humanity”. It states more clearly than ever, the need for an immediate and holistic campaign to reduce carbon emissions and that 2050 is too late.

Climate change is the key factor contributing to the disruption of human societies through extreme weather events and natural disasters, and as the most recent bushfire season has reminded us, Australia is not immune to this new reality. It is clear that these impacts will escalate in the future and urgent action is required to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the severity of climate change and to proactively plan for a more hostile climate.

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, such as water and waste management, natural ecologies, culture, human health and wellbeing. Growth in our cities means increasing pressures on our natural environment and the crucial ecosystem services they provide (eg clean air, cooler urban areas). Climate change is expected to exacerbate these pressures. We must create a sustainable built environment that fosters connectivity and integrates essential resources and functions to mitigate against adverse impacts from climate change.

The Institute advocates a zero-carbon construction industry by 2030. The built environment accounts for 39% of all carbon emissions, globally, with operational emissions accounting for 28%. The Institute recognises that its members are positioned as major contributors to the problem of climate change – and therefor a potential major contributor to its solution.

Members are actively committing to carbon neutral practices and the Institute has also completed its own carbon neutral journey. The Institute has called on the Australian Government to establish a national plan towards zero carbon buildings by 2030 that can be supported and led where appropriate by state and local government.

The Coalition’s official climate policy is now a non-legislated commitment to net zero by 2050, and a target to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% over 2005 level by 2030. This is despite new projections showing Australia could achieve reductions of up to 35%, and NSW setting a 2030 target to reduce emissions by 50% over 2005 levels. The UK and US have lifted their targets with a 68% cut.

It is not enough to go to Glasgow with a commitment to net zero by 2050. Australia must announce a higher formal emissions target for 2030 and have a demonstrated plan to achieve it.