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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Speech to Built Environment Meets Parliament Summit: Launch of Your Development web portal

Speech
Parliament House, Canberra
2 September 2008

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Thank you Ross.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of this land the Ngunnawal people, their elders, past and present.

It's a pleasure to be with you on this Tuesday afternoon in Canberra.

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you this afternoon and congratulations to the Planning Institute of Australia, the Australian Institute of Architects, the Property Council of Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia and the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia for hosting this important summit.

This annual conversation between politicians and industry is a good opportunity to get together, exchange views and highlight key trends and issues. The well-credentialed speakers and panel members are a tribute to the value placed on this event, and it is encouraging to see the priority given to environmental sustainability in today’s discussions.

As you would know, addressing dangerous climate change is one of the highest priorities of the Rudd Labor Government.

We are committed to ensuring Australia meets its responsibilities in facing this national and global challenge and are moving resolutely to implement a comprehensive response that is both economically responsible and environmentally effective.

This response will drive substantial economic reforms, centred around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

But to be truly comprehensive – to achieve reductions in carbon pollution at least cost – this response must be complemented by measures to remove obstacles to the uptake of energy efficiency, particularly through the early years of adjustment.

The International Energy Agency, the leading international body which studies this matter, stated this proposition simply, by saying; Improving energy efficiency is the most cost-effective concrete action governments can take in the short term to address climate change.

That reflects why energy efficiency is a key plank in the Government's approach to tackling climate change, and it's here the built environment has a critical role to play.

Energy efficiency and the built environment

Nowhere is the size of the challenge and the scope of the opportunity in addressing dangerous climate change more tangible than in our built environment, the places where we live and work.

And the issues we face in creating a more sustainable built environment epitomise the climate change challenge and in fact environmental stewardship more broadly.

It's about the legacy that we choose to leave to those who follow.

Just as every tonne of carbon pollution we put into the atmosphere is a legacy for future generations, every building we create, every residential development, every office block, creates a legacy – that is, not only for future generations, but immediately – for our cost of living, for the costs of doing business, for our quality of life and for our environment.

The nature of that legacy has been very clear as I've travelled around Australia, undertaking a series of stakeholder roundtables on the practical actions that households can take to reduce their energy use, save money on energy bills, and contribute to tackling climate change.

From Perth to Hobart, from Adelaide to Brisbane, in Sydney and in Melbourne last week, a number of messages have been consistently coming through.

One is that the buildings we create today become the carbon footprint of tomorrow.

If we don't ensure new developments incorporate cost-effective technologies and design features to save energy and water, we lock in wasted energy and water for decades into the future.

As it was put to me by one roundtable participant, it's the equivalent of building a V8 car without seatbelts.

Another message was that it's fine to talk about new buildings, but one of our most immediate challenges, particularly for low-income households, is the energy efficiency of our current building stock.

That challenge is front and centre of the Government's agenda as we move towards the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

It's one of the reasons why in the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper the Government has already made a clear commitment to provide assistance for Australian households to take practical action, reducing their energy use, saving on energy bills, and contribute to tackling climate change.

This is about the legacy we choose to leave, because quite simply, in 10, 20, 30 years from now, we cannot afford to look back and wonder why we kept creating buildings that cost more to live in and work in and contribute more carbon pollution – and then wonder again what to do about it.

We can already see what the results of that kind of legacy are, because for the last 12 years, there has been no concerted and necessary action to address dangerous climate change.

For 12 years, action on energy efficiency has been ad-hoc, fragmented and delayed.

International Energy Agency indicators show Australia's improvements in energy efficiency between 1990 and 2005 lagged well behind other OECD countries.

It is the test of any Government's commitment to action on climate change whether they harness the cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities that already exist, often described as the low-hanging fruit.

And on this test, just as with climate change policy more broadly, the previous Government failed the test.

The energy efficiency agenda

The Rudd Labor Government has made a clear commitment to turn around this legacy, to ramp-up cost-effective energy efficiency opportunities, and to provide much-needed national leadership in this area.

We are taking action already, with a commitment of more than $1 billion in the Government's first Budget to household and community renewable energy and energy and water efficiency.

We're targeting sectors of the built environment where significant gains can be made, for example through rebates for solar hot water systems to replace inefficient systems and through the $150 million Low Emission Plan for Renters, providing rebates for installing energy-efficient insulation in rental homes.

We're targeting existing Australian homes on an unprecedented scale, for example through Green Loans, a $300 million commitment to deliver Green Renovation packs, sustainability assessments, and low-interest loans for energy and water efficiency to up to 200,000 households from early 2009.

And we're also helping Australians make smarter choices for energy efficient products by expanding, accelerating and strengthening energy rating labels and standards for appliances, like televisions.

These commitments form part of a broad and strategic agenda on energy efficiency, one that extends across the built environment.

The built environment of the future

We understand the importance of harnessing the creativity, the innovation and combined knowledge of the industries represented in this room, in development, building, urban design and planning.

You saw further evidence of this Government's commitment to your industries today, with my colleague Minister Kim Carr announcing the appointment of Ms Sue Holliday as the inaugural chair of the Built Environment Industry Innovation Council. This is the first in a series of Industry Innovation Councils we're putting in place, promoting whole-of-industry responses to priorities like climate change and sustainability.

And I know you would be well aware of the scope of the opportunity. For example, analysis commissioned through the Centre for International Economics suggests that efficiency gains from Australia’s building sector alone could increase GDP by approximately $38 billion annually by 2050.

I'm encouraged that much of the thinking and some of the collaboration and efforts required to harness these kinds of opportunities is already underway.

Many of you would have heard about two Australian Government initiated publications that promote sustainable buildings and a sustainable built environment — Your Home and Your Building.

Your Home was developed in cooperation with the building and design industry as well as state and territory governments to bring building professionals and the community up to speed on environmentally sustainable homes.

The Fourth Edition of the Technical Manual was released earlier this year along with a new Your Home Renovator's Guide.

Your Building is at the other end of the building spectrum and features a web portal about sustainability for commercial buildings.

The management of this web portal, which was developed in cooperation with industry and the CRC for Construction Innovation, has recently been taken on by the Property Council of Australia.

Construction Innovation deserves recognition for bringing this complex two year project to a successful conclusion.

I also want to acknowledge the participation of the Property Council for taking on this job because under your stewardship, your leadership and your guidance the Your Building site will become an even more invaluable tool for the commercial building sector.

I'm pleased to see that Your Home and Your Building have been well received because they are helping people to take practical action, reducing their energy use and their environmental impact – something that Australians have shown they are keen to embrace.

Launch of the Your Development web portal

And so it's a pleasure today to launch the latest in this series, the Your Development web portal, which – as we saw in the brief introductory DVD – will reach out to anyone involved in creating new neighbourhoods.

This includes private and public developers, local, state, and federal government bodies, designers, architects, planners and builders, importantly because energy efficiency is not only a way of conserving energy; it is also fundamental to good and profitable project development and design in a broader sense.

It conserves financial resources over time, reducing waste, and when done well, can boost profits.

It also supports the interests of developers, planning agencies, buyers and tenants and brings tangible advantages to the project approval, marketing and sales processes.

Quite simply, Your Development will provide the information and advice to unlock these benefits, and it will do so by creating a critical mass of expert information at a central and easily accessible point.

It's a pretty good idea, and as you may be aware, that's exactly what the Government is doing more broadly, establishing the user-friendly One Stop Green Shop website to link families, schools and businesses to all Commonwealth, State and local government household efficiency programs.

Your Development is a particularly exciting project for the way we think about our built environment, because it invites us to take a step back from the individual household and look at the bigger picture.

It helps us understand that making energy and water efficiency first principles – rather than something we bolt on after the fact – can create benefits on a number of levels.

By building in urban efficiency, we use efficient and effective public and private transport systems as well as encouraging walking and cycling.

Neighbourhood efficiency creates well-designed streets that have the best possible solar orientation which takes advantage of cooling breezes in the summer and reduces the need for air-conditioning.

Building efficiency in the selection and development of materials, insulation and glazing choices reduces ongoing running costs for occupants.

Systems efficiency is also critical, particularly as modern households are brimming with motorised and thermal equipment.

And finally community efficiency, because it's important to remember that a feature of any good design is looking at the use patterns, maintenance behaviour and lifestyle of particular communities because they are, ultimately, the ones making the change to a more efficient and sustainable future.

Conclusion

I want to thank the CSIRO and the Project Advisory Committee for all their work.

And I want to thank the representatives from state government and state government development agencies, private developers, the industry associations as well as the leading researchers and industry experts who have made the Your Development web portal a reality.

I'm sure everyone working on the front line in these sectors will find this resource invaluable.

It's the kind of collaboration and shared knowledge that we're going to need in bucketloads to overcome the significant challenges and take the very real opportunities as we set about reducing Australia's carbon pollution over the long term.

The built environment I am sure we all imagine – one that provides for where we live and work, for our leisure, comfort and security, one that reduces our use of water and energy – and through innovation, one that harvests water, generates clean energy and contributes to addressing the challenge of climate change; that is the built environment we need for the future, and one I'm confident that the industries represented here today stand ready to plan, to design and to build. And you can be assured the Government will roll up the sleeves and work with you as we set about the task ahead.

Thank you.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia