The rivalry between NSW and the rest of Australia is nothing new.

“Who’s got the Opera House?”

“Well if the Opera House is so great, why does everyone want to move to the Gold Coast?”

“Yeah, well remind me again: which is the world’s most livable city?”

But when it comes to climate policy, the NSW government could possibly settle the debate once and for all. They have recently made an announcement that creates something which surpasses buildings, events or even ‘most livable city’ awards.

The measures in the draft NSW Climate Change Framework, if implemented with strong ambition, have the power to create a better future for all Australians. They can do this by providing real action on the urgent challenge of climate change – lowering emissions and supporting the renewable energy sector.

In the announcement, NSW Premier Mike Baird stated that NSW will aspire to zero emissions by 2050. This is a necessary undertaking if we are serious about avoiding the worst effects of climate change. While it’s true that South Australia has already made the same commitment, NSW’s emissions dwarf South Australia’s.

Two draft plans have been released for public consultation: the Climate Change Fund Draft Strategic Plan and the Draft Plan to Save NSW Energy and Money. These spell out that NSW will spend $500 million over the next five years, of which $400 million will be spread between supporting renewable energy and increasing the energy efficiency of existing buildings and infrastructure.

Earlier this year, the release of the Low Carbon, High Performance report helped explain why the building sector is the best place to reduce emissions quickly, and sets out a detailed roadmap to achieve this.

It’s a positive step to see that several of the key recommendations outlined in this report have been picked up in the Draft Plan to Save NSW Energy and Money. These include supporting changes to the Australian Building Code to create cost-effective standards for new commercial buildings; measures to improve energy efficiency for rented homes (such as with rules for minimum energy efficiency standards before homes can be leased); more energy efficient infrastructure; increased disclosure of the energy performance of commercial buildings; and compulsory energy efficiency ratings when homes are sold.

The Climate Change Fund Draft Strategic Plan also picked up on several of the State-level recommendations, including improving information on local climate change impacts, improving building standards and planning requirements to take into account the impacts of climate change, and unlocking funds for local communities to respond to climate change.

Of course, the NSW government can’t tackle climate change alone. The building industry now needs to work with the government, using their expertise and energy to be part of the historic changes underway. In this way, the built environment can be an example to other sectors around Australia, showing how to vigorously engage with government initiatives to get real, on the ground action on climate, whilst delivering better outcomes for business and the community.

If you’ve got something to say about the ideas in the NSW government’s two draft plans, you can do so online or via a series of workshops and consultations. The consultation period ends on 16 December. ASBEC is urging all building sector groups and individuals to consider taking part in this consultation process.

The NSW Government’s daring move in announcing bold targets, and providing real cash to support them, raises the bar on climate action. Hopefully, this will provide an example for other Aussie States to follow, and maybe even exceed. If the Federal Government then steps up with national coordination, so much the better.

NSW’s announcement has shown that a more energy efficient, cost effective and environmentally sound future is possible. Now that’s something to boast about.