Zero Carbon Buildings: Policy Roadmap

High performance buildings can make a major contribution to emissions reductions.

A report prepared by ClimateWorks Australia for the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) explores the profound and cost-effective emissions reductions opportunities presented by Australia’s built environment.

In light of Australia’s signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, the nation has committed to a global transition to zero net emissions by 2050. The Australian built environment sector currently contributes almost a quarter of Australia’s emissions and has a vital role to play in this shift locally.

The report titled ‘Low Carbon, High Performance’ models potential emissions reductions from the building sector, setting out a policy roadmap to pave the way for a smooth and economically efficient transition to zero net emissions nationally, by 2050.

To read the summary report, click here.

The report highlights that even without technological breakthroughs, cost-effective energy efficiency can reduce projected 2050 emissions from buildings by more than half. If most non-electric appliances are switched to electric alternatives, there is enough distributed energy potential through solar PV to reduce emissions from buildings to zero by 2050.

Implementing all energy efficiency opportunities identified in the report could deliver almost $20 billion in financial savings by 2030, in addition to productivity benefits and quality of life improvements for Australian business and households. Buildings could also meet over half the national energy productivity target, and more than one quarter of Australia’s national emissions targets.

Find out more about how Australia can transition to a low emission, high performance built environment sector by clicking here.

Though market leaders have made substantial improvements, the challenge is to extend this progress across the sector. This requires strong policy support to address barriers to energy efficiency and distributed energy.

Within the report ClimateWorks has recommended five key policy solutions to drive the transition to a zero carbon building sector:

  1. A national plan towards 2050 zero carbon buildings
  2. Strong mandatory minimum standards for buildings and appliances
  3. Targeted incentives and programs, including leveraging government market power, financial incentives like green depreciation, stamp duty concessions and planning incentives, and targeted programs for key sectors like mid-tier office and retail, and vulnerable households
  4. Energy market reforms
  5. Enabling data, information, research and education measures

And finally, the report details the cost of inaction. Just five years delay in implementing these opportunities could lead to loss of over 170 megatonnes of emissions reduction and over $24 billion in wasted energy expenditure.

Without further action to address these barriers, buildings would consume almost half of Australia’s carbon budget, undermining our ability to meet our Paris Climate Agreement commitments.

Read the full report here. Or for more information or to discuss this work please contact Eli Court, Implementation Manager, ClimateWorks Australia on 03 9903 8032 or by emailing

The Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council (ASBEC) is the peak representative body for sustainability in the built environment.