Inaction on greener buildings puzzle experts
By David Fogarty
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - Building greener homes and office towers and installing energy-efficient lighting could slash planet-warming carbon emissions, U.N. and industry officials said at climate talks in Bali on Friday.
They said the technology already existed to dramatically cut electricity use for very little cost, and yet it was puzzling that governments, industries and home-owners weren't cashing in on the energy-saving ideas.
"About 40 percent of all energy is consumed in buildings and in construction. This is the incredible fact most people don't realize," said Kaarin Taipale, of the U.N.'s Marrakesh Task Force on Sustainable Buildings and Construction.
The trick was to install greener lighting, ventilation, heating and cooling systems, said Sylvie Lemmet, director of the United Nations Environment Program's Division of Technology, Industry and Economics.
She said it was also possible to cut power consumption by using better insulating materials in walls, windows, flooring and doors, and changing people's behavior, such as switching off the lights as office-workers leave for the day.
"The entire current emission reductions commitment under the Kyoto Protocol can be achieved in the building sector alone. And the costs of achieving these reductions are low, very low."
Advanced technology was not needed, she told a news conference on the sidelines of the talks in Bali, where 190 nations are trying to shape a broader climate pact to expand or replace the Kyoto Protocol. The pact binds 36 industrial nations to meet emissions curbs between 2008-2012.
"You'd believe everyone would be rushing towards reducing emissions from the building and construction sectors and that governments are actively supporting the sector to realize this potential."
"This is not really happening and in most countries nothing is happening."
This was because there was little knowledge of materials, little awareness about by business about sustainable buildings, and economic disincentives, she said.
"All our studies have found it will not happen if governments are not active to help overcome the market failure that is very blatant here."
The developing world was taking a growing share of emissions.
"In China, two billion square meters (21 billion sq ft) of new building space is added every year, making China the largest consumer of cement, steel, brick and many other building materials."
Lack of coordination between building professionals and lack of knowledge about how to construct greener buildings was another impediment, said Christian Kornevall of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
He said there was often a failure of basic communication during the design phase, with architects, structural, mechanical and electrical engineers not working closely enough.
The same applied during construction, Kornevall, the council's project director of energy efficiency in buildings, told the same news conference.
He blamed "decision-making islands" for poor overall communication that led to energy-inefficient designs.
A senior executive of Dutch electronics giant Philips told a separate news conference in Bali that installing energy-efficient lighting could save 1.5 billion barrels of oil a year, or the annual output of 530 medium-sized power stations.
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(Editing by Alister Doyle)