“Green buildings can help combat climate change” – Terri Willis

28 July 2016

There is a direct correlation between climate change and non-green buildings, with 98% of the world’s megacities already experiencing climate risks,World Green Building Council (WGBC) CEO Terri Willis said on Wednesday.

At the country’s ninth yearly Green Building Convention, in Sandton, she explained that these climate risks included flooding, heatwaves and other dramatic weather events. “Green buildings can help combat climate change owing to the positive environmental impact they have on the planet,” she said.  

At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s twenty-first Conference of the Parties (COP 21), held in Paris, in December, world leaders signed an agreement to combat climate change and limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

“We were able to communicate to countries that the WGBC is here as a movement to help them reach their targets as part of the Paris agreement,” she said. Sectors that have a significant impact on climate change include buildings, transportation, and [traditional] energy suppliers. If people continued with business-as-usual practices across these sectors, the planet was headed towards 6°C of global warming, the results of which would be catastrophic.

“We can get to the 2°C target, but that means that in the buildings sector, we have to reduce 84 gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2050, the equivalent of eliminating 22 000 coal-fired power plants. ”She added that if the 2°C reduction target was to be reached, “we need to get to net zero building as quickly as possible and ensure that buildings that are being constructed are green.”

She highlighted that all buildings should be net zero buildings by 2050. WGBC had been collecting evidence that outlined why green building was better for people from a health and wellbeing perspective. A Harvard study, the ‘COG Effect Study’ found that the cognitive performance of people working in green buildings improved by 300%, owing to lower CO2 levels and fresher air flow through green buildings. 

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