Governments, NGOs and even CEOs will soon convene in Bali for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) for talks on a post-Kyoto framework. Debate in this area seems to be at a tipping point, with carbon emissions reductions of 50% or more by 2050 being seriously discussed worldwide.
"To meet such targets, both society and business must change with some urgency and on a huge scale," said WBCSD President Bjorn Stigson during the Council's October meeting in Brussels. "Governments and business are increasingly working together, giving us a window of opportunity to influence framework conditions through concrete proposals."
Companies will also unite on December 10th to tell governments what business wants in the post-Kyoto framework. This Bali Global Business Day (www.balibusinessday.org) will bring together 200-300 decision-makers from companies, governments, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The event will send a strong message that business wants a successful completion of a new global climate change framework beyond 2012 that includes a clear and ambitious long-term strategy for reducing global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Success in Bali depends on business being out in front asking for a framework that is "long, loud and legal", said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer at the Brussels meeting. He added that "the significance of Bali lies in its insignificance." The only outcome that is truly necessary is a roadmap, and the business community must give input.
The business day will also demonstrate the capacities and commitments of leading companies and business sectors to provide solutions to the climate challenge and highlight the policies and financing requirements that will enable companies and markets to successfully develop and disseminate the technologies and practices required by an ambitious global mitigation plan.
WBCSD member companies have already taken the lead in developing solutions. For example, the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) project is focusing on a future where buildings consume zero net energy, creating as much energy as they consume. This is important because buildings are responsible for at least 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide. Construction booms in countries like China and India are increasing buildings' greenhouse gas emissions, but the knowledge and technology exist today to slash the energy that buildings use.
Globally, carbon could be reduced by 715 million tons by 2010 through simply improving the energy efficiency of buildings and appliances. This is equivalent to 27% of the projected increase greenhouse gas emissions to that date. However, most people believe that it is too expensive to build new buildings or retrofit old ones to high energy-saving standards. This is simply not true.
A study by the WBCSD's EEB project showed that buildings professionals in eight countries — developed and developing — have the numbers wrong. Asked what percentage of CO2 emissions they thought buildings give rise to, participants answered, on average, 19% less than half the correct answer. US professionals averaged 12%.
Asked how much they thought a certified sustainable building would cost to build relative to a normal building, the average response was 17% more. In fact, the premium is usually under 5% in developed countries. Perhaps the lack of knowledge is not surprising, given that only 13% of the respondents had ever actually been engaged in the building of green buildings.
Other barriers to action include the fragmentation of the buildings sector and the different motivations within it. For example, a developer erecting a building for sale may opt for cheaper heating and air conditioning components rather than more expensive units that would save the buyer and/or occupier money over time. Developers will change their approaches as more end users demand green buildings.
The project summarized these findings in Energy Efficiency in Buildings: Business realities and opportunities. It calls on governments to provide improved policy frameworks, including better urban planning, more effective building codes to enforce minimum required technical standards, and information and communication to overcome the lack of know-how and to highlight the energy performance of individual buildings. A combination of voluntary and mandatory schemes is already emerging: for example, voluntary labeling schemes such as CASBEE (Japan) and LEED (US) and the mandatory building "passport" (EU).
Other policy improvements, such as tax and market incentives, could encourage the purchase of energy efficient building equipment, materials and occupant consumption. Energy pricing to make energy more valued by users and to decouple utilities' revenues from the volume of energy supplied, and enforcement, measurement and verification to make sure policies and regulations (including building codes) are effective and support market measures such as trading.