EXPERT VOICES: This guest post was written by Zach Tofias, Director of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group’s Sustainable Communities Initiative and the Climate Positive Development Programme
Readers of this blog understand the importance of climate change and the reason to focus on cities. Today more than half the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050 that number will be closer to 75 percent.
The Climate Positive Development Programme launched in partnership with the Clinton Climate Initiative and the US Green Building Council in 2009 with the goal of addressing this dual challenge of rapid urbanisation and climate change. As a flagship network of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the Programme strives to identify and support the implementation of sustainable models for district scale development.
As many leading sustainable development practitioners gathered in Sydney for the Green Cities 2013 conference, it was our distinct honour to announce that the Victoria Harbour in Melbourne and Barangaroo South project in Sydney are the first in the world to achieve Climate Positive Participant status. This designation is granted to those projects which have prepared plans detailing the strategies and tactics they intend to use to achieve a Climate Positive (operationally net negative emission) outcome. These plans have been successfully reviewed and approved by the independent experts on the Climate Positive Roadmap Review Committee.
Lend Lease’s Dan Labbad and Cate Harris accept the Climate Positive Participant recognition from C40’s Claire Blewitt.
The 18 exemplary pilot projects currently in the Climate Positive Development Programme provide the opportunity for C40 to partner with cities to identify policies and replicable best practices to build large-scale urban communities that will reduce greenhouse gases and manifest the highest standards of sustainability and climate resilience. As a result, Melbourne’s Victoria Harbour and Sydney’s Barangaroo projects serve as important urban laboratories, showing what is possible, identifying critical collaborations between developers and their government counterparts, and creating a case for holistic planning and development that improves the local environment, creates jobs, and enhances local quality of life.
But such significant, paradigm-shifting accomplishments take time: achieving Climate Positive status is a journey marked by four stages of recognition. Those special projects accepted into the Programme advance through these recognition stages on the basis of verifiable progress in planning and construction, as well as the submission of Programme-specific documentation.
Climate Positive Development Partners have made a commitment to achieve net-negative, on-site, operational greenhouse gas emissions. This is accomplished through ambitious on-site emissions reductions in energy consumption, travel, and waste, and by more than offsetting any remaining emissions through investments that reduce emissions in the surrounding community. Thus, upon completion and once operational, these projects will have a “positive” impact on their municipal climates, and serve as an example for the world to follow.
Buildings are an integral part of the story of how cities interact with their climates. The premise of the Climate Positive Development Programme is that developers cannot afford to just “build buildings” and hope that someone else will address climate change and resiliency issues. We are privileged to have found developers and governments in Australia who share this belief, and whose leadership and commitment to low carbon development have enabled the right way to approach development in this new world.
There is no single pathway to achieving a climate positive outcome, as each Climate Positive Development project has a unique profile based on distinct economic, political and climate challenges. But nonetheless, each project is striving toward the ambitious goal of lowering their operational GHG emissions below zero. The mission of this programme is to both recognise successful implementation and create models for cities to follow; Lend Lease’s plans for Victoria Harbour and Barangaroo are truly illuminating the path for future sustainable urban developments — a message we’re excited to spread throughout C40’s networks and the world.
The Climate Positive Development Programme is proud to work with leading private sector developers, NGOs and cities that are creating locally relevant examples of environmentally sustainable, low-carbon development. From many conversations I’ve had with city leaders and partners around the world, it is clear that cities realise the time for action is now. It has been said that “nations talk, cities act.” We are seeing in practice that this mantra can be further refined to say that cities are even more likely to act when they have great examples to learn from!