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Improving Buildings Could Save New Zealand Almost $40 Billion And Slash Emissions

Improving buildings could save New Zealand almost $40 billion and slash emissions equivalent to taking half our country’s petrol cars off the road.

A new report just released by the New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) shows introducing policies to improve building standards, phase out gas, and make energy use transparent could save 93,000kt of emissions by 2050.

“Buildings offer a massive opportunity to slash emissions while also helping reduce costs for Kiwi families and businesses. As New Zealand is bound by law and international trade agreements to reduce our emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, our buildings are a key lever.” says Andrew Eagles, NZGBC chief executive.

“The Climate Change Commission has warned we’re way off meeting our second 2030 emissions target. These basic policies will reduce emissions equivalent to taking 600,000 cars off the road in the next five years, accounting for a third of the reductions we need.”

Importantly, the policies come at little-to-no cost to the Government. Rather, the report found the emissions saved by introducing those low-cost policies could be worth between $19 billion and $39 billion by 2050.

“Without real, emission-busting policies like the ones we’re proposing, New Zealand will have no choice but to pay billions of taxpayer dollars for international carbon offsets – effectively funding other countries to reduce emissions,” Andrew Eagles says.

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Just last week New Zealand’s electricity sector went into panic-mode as winter peak threatened to outstrip supply. Energy performance certificates and improvements to the building code have the additional benefit of reducing demand.

“Even before winter, our country’s electricity supply is struggling. So why aren’t we ensuring the key cause - our homes and buildings, are performing well, and that we’re building in a way that saves energy and improves health? These policies not only help reduce emissions, but will massively ease pressure on the grid, and reduce people’s power bills.”

“We can’t afford inaction. Not progressing sensible, evidence-backed policy will have major costs for New Zealanders and the planet. Most OECD countries took these steps decades ago.”

Next week almost 300 of the country’s leading residential building experts and professionals will gather at the NZGBC’s annual Housing Summit to discussion housing challenges, opportunities, and solutions.

Notes:

Actions explored in the report include:

  • Staggered improvements to the building code, requiring new buildings to measuring operational and upfront carbon emissions at consenting stage from 2025, a 20% reduction in both upfront and operational emissions by 2028 , 40% reduction in upfront carbon emissions and near zero energy in operation by 20230, and a 60% reduction in upfront carbon emissions and near zero energy in operation by 2034.
  • Require all homes put up for sale or rent to have an Energy Performance Certificates by 2028, and all office buildings over 1,000sqm put up for sale or lease to have a NABERSNZ certificate from 2026
  • Phase out of fossil gas in homes and commercial buildings. Suggested actions include expand the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme to subsidise electrification of home heating from 2027, converting 25,000 homes a year. End new residential fossil gas connections from 2026. Implement a concerted programme, building on the successful replacement of coal boilers in schools and hospitals, to subsidise 10% of commercial buildings per year from 2026 to electrify.

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