“For ten years, the Emissions Gap Report has been sounding the alarm – and for ten years, the world has only increased its emissions. There has never been a more important time to listen to the science. Failure to heed these warnings and take drastic action to reverse emissions means we will continue to witness deadly and catastrophic heatwaves, storms and pollution.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, Geneva, 26 November 2019
Our planet, as we know it, is changing faster than we can imagine and it is mostly due to climate change. Global warming, Earth’s rising temperature, is causing extreme weather events like melting glaciers, rising seas, disappearing rivers, wildfires, extinction of species, shifting wildlife population and loss of habitat, among others.
In the Emissions Gap Report, released on 26 November 2019, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has prophesised that destructive global warming level will result from unchecked emissions. “On current unconditional pledges, the world is heading for a 3.2°C temperature rise”, says the report, while calling for radical transformation to be undertaken by countries and companies. The report says that current annual emissions stand at 55.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, but by 2030 it must fall by 32 gigatonnes to hit the ambitious goal of 1.5°C (as defined by the Paris climate deal). According to the UNEP report, this requires 7.6% annual cuts in emissions between 2020 and 2030 by countries and companies (1).
Climate action has become a global issue and countries are now including emission reduction as part of their long-term policies and short-term development plans. Even the corporate sector is taking steps by incorporating new policies to address climate and sustainability goals.
In fact, to reduce their carbon footprints, companies are increasingly opting for green buildings and using green building materials. According to the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) report, Bringing Embodied Carbon Upfront, released in September this year, buildings are currently responsible for 39% of global energy related carbon emissions. Of this, 28% comes from operational emissions (heating, cooling and powering) and the remaining 11% comes from materials and construction. The vision: by 2030, new buildings, infrastructure and renovations should have net zero embodied carbon, by 2050 and all existing and new buildings must be net zero operational carbon.
In India too, companies are getting conscious about their emission levels and working towards reducing it (2). By going green with buildings and offices, companies in India are realizing that they can reduce energy costs by 40-50% and also save water by 20-30% compared to what can be achieved with a regular building in India (3).
The Confederation of Indian Industry’s Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) is leading the green building movement in India. Established in the year 2001 with the vision to enable a sustainable built environment for all and facilitate India to be one of the global leaders in the sustainable built environment by 2025, IGBC has successfully demonstrated that green buildings make good business sense. It has played a catalytic role in the spread and growth of global green building movement in India. With 7.0 billion sq. ft of registered green building footprint, it has facilitated India to emerge as one of the top three countries in the world in terms of largest registered green building footprint (4).
Others are also joining in. In a bid to mitigate global warming concerns and to make environment part of the green building movement, cities and local municipalities are focussing on ‘green smart cities’. Green smart cities promote efficient use of infrastructure by limiting the use of natural resources by incorporating best practices in water efficiency, energy savings and solid waste management. Under the Central Government’s Smart Cities Mission, 100 smart cities are at various stages of implementation.
IGBC, with over 5,425 IGBC GREEN Building Projects is now focussing on smart cities. The Centre is associated with more than 12 smart cities currently (5). Infact, the IGBC Green Cities rating system is the first of its kind rating in India to address environmental sustainability in emerging cities. The rating system enables the development authorities and developers to apply green concepts and planning principles to reduce environmental impacts that are measurable and improve the overall quality of life.
India is dedicatedly working towards a green and sustainable future by taking steps to increase its tree cover in and around the forests. Green cities’ collective focus on reduction of emissions, green building certification, creation of green spaces and infrastructure, energy saving initiatives and using green building materials will go a long way in helping India achieve its goals of making its cities truly green.