The built environment is one of six industries across Australia that will receive sectoral plans for decarbonisation by 2050.

In an address before the Clean Energy Council on Tuesday, Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen announced that the Commonwealth Government would commence working with industry and other stakeholders to develop specific plans for decarbonisation across six sectors of the economy.

These are:

  • Electricity and energy
  • Industry
  • The Built Environment
  • Agricultura and Land
  • Transport; and
  • Resources

The waste sector was not mentioned specifically but will feature prominently in the industry plan. Meanwhile, a focus upon circular economy concepts will cut across all sectors.

Development of the plans will be a joint effort between Bown and several of his Cabinet colleagues.

These include Ed Husic (Minister for Industry and Science) when it comes to industry and the built environment, Murray Watt (Agriculture Minister) and Tanya Plibersek (Environment and Water Minister) when it comes to agriculture and land, Madeleine King (Resources Minister) on resources and Catherine King (Transport/Infrastructure Minister) in regard to transport.

The plans will feed into broader Commonwealth targets for 2035 and the net zero target by 2050.

In his address, Bowen said he had listened to advice from the Climate Change Authority that Australia’s net zero plan for 2050 should be updated and supported by specific plans for major economic sectors.

Bowen also said that feedback from Australian and international investors indicated that government-guided sectoral plans are critical for attracting new investment in decarbonisation technologies.

The announcement comes after the Property Council of Australia and the Green Building Council of Australia launched a policy plan to deliver net-zero carbon ready and resilient buildings earlier this year.

The report laid out 39 comprehensive recommendations. These included a single national rating scheme for home energy performance, establishing a strategy for ensuring Australia has climate resilient buildings, requiring new buildings to be delivered all-electric, the phasing out of fossil fuels in existing buildings and appliances, skilling up the workforce and incentives to support a fair transition for low-income and vulnerable households.

Building industry lobby groups welcomed the announcement.

Property Council Chief Executive Mike Zorbas said Australia must decarbonise the built environment to reach its net zero goals.

“The Australian property sector is at the forefront of global sustainability efforts. We are well positioned to support Australia’s net zero goals as long as the signposts are clear,” Zorbas said.

“The Property Council has long advocated for a sector specific plan to guide that effort and today’s announcement is a welcome one.

“Buildings account for 50 per cent of Australia’s electricity use and 23 per cent of all emissions through their operations.

“The technology already exists today to decarbonise buildings – but we must do this as a priority and at scale.

“The shift to low carbon and resilient buildings needs a clear plan and steady trajectory that encourages market confidence.

“We look forward to working with Ministers Bowen, Husic and McAllister to provide certainty to industry and benefits to communities.”

Master Builders Australia CEO Denita Wawn agrees, saying that the construction and operation of the nation’s built environment is at the end of the energy supply chain and is therefore a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and environmental outcomes.

Wawn said that Master Builders would advocate for necessary measures to be incorporated into the National Construction Code.

Measures would also consider workforce capacity, supply chain capacity, finalised frameworks and education processes as well as planning reform, Wawn said.

Max Shifman, National President of the Urban Development Institute of Australia, also welcomed the move, describing the scale of effort and change which is required during the net-zero transition as being equivalent to a second industrial revolution and stressing that the industry is already developing the technology which is needed to shift to low carbon, sustainable structures.

Given current industry headwinds along with the housing supply crisis, however, Shiffman stresses that any move toward net zero needs to reflect a clear and responsible strategy that incentives innovation and improves productivity.

This includes careful consideration of the need of low-income households along with those of small and medium sized business that represent much of the home building sector.