Rio+20: Building Efficiency Key to Meeting Sustainable Development Goals
Thousands of leaders from governments, civil society and industry converged in June for the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit, known as the Rio Summit. The outcome of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janiero was a document adopted by all countries titled The Future We Want. The group recognized that improved energy efficiency, increased share of renewable energy, and cleaner and energy-efficient technologies are important for sustainable development, including in addressing climate change.
Buildings and building efficiency have significant impacts on all three pillars of sustainable development:
Economic development: Each $1 spent on energy efficiency avoids more than $2, on average, in energy supply investments.ii Investments in building efficiency free up scarce resources for other purposes.
Social development: Some 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, and the vast majority of the building infrastructure they need has yet to be built. There is an opportunity to shape tomorrow’s cities and buildings.
Environmental goals: Making new and existing buildings more efficient reduces carbon and other air pollution emissions, and stretches limited water resource further. Buildings present the single largest opportunity for carbon emission mitigation.
The Rio+20 outcomes document noted the launching of the UN Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. The SE4ALL initiative seeks to mobilize action from all sectors of society in support of three interlinked objectives by 2030:
Provide universal access to modern energy services.
Double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
Double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.
In contrast to the first Rio Summit, the emphasis at Rio+20 was less on the adoption of political treaties and more on forging lasting partnerships between businesses, governments and communities designed to achieve sustainable development goals on the ground. Seven hundred concrete commitments were registered at Rio+20 by governments, business, industry, financial institutions and civil society groups, among others.
At Rio+20, Johnson Controls announced the release of the second edition of its report, Driving Transformation to Energy Efficient Buildings, Policies and Actions. The report is designed to help policymakers develop policies to transform buildings to be more energy efficient. The report summarizes building efficiency policy options and how each helps overcome market barriers to energy efficiency. It also includes a tool to help policymakers prioritize those policy options for local circumstances through engagement with local stakeholders. Johnson Controls, along with partner organizations, registered the release and dissemination of the report as a public commitment at Rio+20. Partners on the development and deployment of the toolkit include the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Center for Clean Air Policy, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the World Green Building Council.
In addition to the Rio+20 commitment to the Driving Transformation report, Johnson Controls committed to work with the UN Foundation to establish a new Global Building Energy Efficiency Partnership (GBEEP). The GBEEP partnership will be a collaborative forum for private, public and civil society organizations to accelerate and scale the global deployment of energy efficiency in the built environment, in support of the SE4ALL goal to double the global rate of energy efficiency improvement.
The Rio+20 outcomes document points out the crucial role that governments can play in creating enabling environments for the private sector to scale-up investments in clean energy technologies: “We urge governments to create enabling environments that facilitate public and private sector investment in relevant and needed cleaner energy technologies."
In the 20 years since the 1992 Summit, the private sector has become a strong partner in sustainable development in many parts of the world, and clean energy investment has grown dramatically. The Rio+20 Summit demonstrated how partnerships between the private sector, civil society and governments can fuel the transition to a more sustainable future.