Opinion: Extreme weather heightens urgency for climate action, and everyone has a role to play

Developer LendLease's $6.2 billion-dollar project, which aims to be one of the world’s most sustainable office buildings, in Sydney. Photo by: LendLease

Hurricane experts reported last week that they had never seen anything quite like this, as not one, but three powerful Hurricanes barreled through the Atlantic, threatening the well-being of millions in the region.

Though experts say climate change cannot be attributed as the cause, the facts remain that our increasingly warmer planet will lead to more intense and extreme hurricanes in the months and years that lie ahead.

A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change predicts there is only a 5 percent chance we can successfully meet the climate targets of the Paris agreement and keep global temperature rises under 2 degrees Celsius.

But in fact, the solutions exist — and commitments to deploy these solutions must be accelerated in order to quell the devastation that accompanies climate change.

Corporations, governments and individuals all have a role to play in bringing about the dramatic changes that will need to occur to meet the Paris agreement targets, and one of the cheapest and easiest places to make change lies in our homes, offices, schools and factories.

Few realize that buildings account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s energy consumption, over 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and 50 percent of all emissions in major cities. But this can change.

The World Green Building Council, in partnership with leading corporations and international experts, are calling for all buildings to become highly energy efficient net zero buildings by 2050. Net zero buildings use only renewable energy, often generated onsite, and produce no harmful carbon emissions. It’s an ambitious goal, but an essential one, in our fight against climate change.

This month, advocates for climate action — corporations, nonprofits and experts — will gather in New York City for Climate Week (Sept. 18 - 25) and following this, communities around the world will turn up the volume on the need for net zero buildings as part of the 8th annual World Green Building Week, beginning Sept. 25.

The conversations, actions and commitments being taken this month are vital to our future as a society. Here’s what you can do.

1. Learn as much as you can about this issue and educate your network, company and community about what can be done to take your buildings closer to net zero carbon. Upgrades can be made to existing structures, and any new investments should consider net zero options.

2. Share the new From Thousands to Billions report, which outlines key actions for businesses, governments and nonprofits to bolster the net zero shift — divesting from fossil fuel-emitting buildings and reinvesting in net zero ones, and setting timebound goals for securing net zero properties.

3. Become a leader on this issue in your network. We are already seeing communities embracing net zero with tremendously positive outcomes — reducing emissions, creating jobs, and giving back clean renewable energy to their communities, such as the Mineirão Football stadium in Brazil with its 6,000 solar panels. Green construction in the U.S. is projected to generate $303.5 billion in gross domestic product, 3.3 million jobs, and $190.3 billion in labor earnings between 2015 and 2018.

We are on the brink of a turning point for the issue of climate change. And with the devastating impacts so close at hand, it is impossible to ignore that our future security is at stake. We can make the shift to net zero, but it will take everyone working together to get there.

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About the author

  • Terri wills

    Terri Wills

    Terri Wills is the CEO of the World Green Building Council. She is responsible for developing and implementing the strategy for the organization as well as working with the board of directors, its various Committees and the staff. Previously, Terri was with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group where she spearheaded C40's networks that have had a direct impact on policy in over half of C40 cities. She also served as the London City Director for the Clinton Climate Initiative, worked with the Government of Ontario on clean technology and creative industry development, and worked for the BBC as a Head of Strategy. In March 2017, Terri was named as one of 10 women leading the global push towards climate action, gender equality and social justice for all by Eco-Business.