The climate’s changing and so must we

This Issue This is a part of the Net-zero carbon buildings feature

By - , Build 182

How fast, how far and how much? These are important considerations in the Climate Change Commission’s advice on transitioning to a thriving, climate-resilient, low-emissions Aotearoa, and it’s calling for your input.


THE CLIMATE CHANGE COMMISSION wants to know what you think – so we have released our first package of advice on how Aotearoa New Zealand can meet climate change goals for consultation.

Change is coming for all

We know that what’s next will involve change for all of us, and this brings with it challenges but also significant opportunities – particularly in how we work, live and move around.

Every investment, every decision, every action needs to consider its emissions contribution and impact on our progress towards a climate-resilient society.

This is about how we use known and new technology and innovation to reduce emissions and enhance removals – how we create jobs, grow the economy and enhance our lives and livelihoods.

We must confront choices and trade-offs, but we can create a better world – less vulnerable, more sustainable and more robust.

Decisions we make now are critical

How the cities, communities and buildings that we live, work and play in are designed, constructed and operated will have an impact on emissions – and BRANZ will play a big role.

Buildings and urban form are important considerations for achieving Aotearoa’s emissions reduction targets. Aotearoa has a very urban population – around 84% of our population lives in an urban area as classified by Stats NZ. Our population is projected to increase, and the number of buildings we have will grow to accommodate the needs of our population and economy.

There is limited opportunity to rapidly change urban form. The change we need takes time. However, we know that the decisions we make today will set us up for the future. It is critical that the planning frameworks, legislation and decision-making criteria are established now, because what we do in the next 5–10 years will influence what we have in 50 years.

Apply a climate change lens

When designing something new or retrofitting an existing structure, it’s important to apply a climate change lens from the very beginning with an eye to both mitigation and adaptation.

Proposed changes to the Building Code will better reflect Aotearoa’s climate zones and their respective needs – particularly in the face of changing climatic conditions – while revisions to New Zealand standards will provide opportunities for increased use of sustainable building materials that can store carbon.

How buildings operate can change now

While there is limited opportunity to rapidly change urban form, we have an immediate chance to change how we operate our existing buildings.

This includes improving thermal performance through better insulation, double-glazed windows, building control systems and improved energy efficiency through LED lighting, efficient appliances and devices and transitioning to lower-carbon heating or cooling options such as heat pumps.

Integrated thinking is critical

Several things are already in motion. A considerable amount of government investment is planned over the next few years, and there is potential to leverage these investments to ensure they’re fit for a low-emissions future. However, integrated decision making across all levels of government is critical. We all need to be working towards common outcomes for climate action.

Developing skills within the building and construction sector and supporting knowledge transfer across the workforce and businesses through a time of uncertainty is essential.

The Construction Sector Accord and Transformation Plan are promising pieces of work that, coupled with the government’s trades and apprenticeship training funding,will ensure Aotearoa has the skills needed to build for the future.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is currently undertaking an important piece of work under the Building for climate change programme. While the current emphasis of this programme is on new buildings, it will be essential to expand this work to existing buildings because many buildings that exist today will remain in 2035 and 2050.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is leading critical pieces of work related to creating sustainable developments that result in vibrant, thriving and connected places where everyone can live affordably and access opportunity.

An opportunity to build better

Our advice includes recommendations for further change across the sector, looking at what is possible to help transition over the coming years. This is an opportunity to build better and improve what we already have so we can enjoy warmer, healthier lives.

We are in this for the long haul. There are some things Aotearoa is already doing that we know can be done now and some things that will be needed in the future.

Our focus is on a transition that is equitable and inclusive, protects livelihoods, makes economic sense and delivers a thriving, climate-resilient and low-emissions Aotearoa to pass onto our children, and our children’s children.

Advice sets the direction to reach net-zero emissions

Our advice sets out the pathways Aotearoa needs to take to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and will include Aotearoa’s first three emissions budgets and guidance on the first emissions reductions plan.

The government will set climate change policy based on our recommendations, and government agencies will be responsible for delivering on the government’s policy direction. Our independence means we can challenge and hold the government of the day to account for action on climate change.

Now is the time to have your say on the future of climate action in Aotearoa.

For more

The Climate Change Commission’s consultation dates run from 1 February to 14 March 2021. For more, visit

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