Building a Sustainable Future - speech by UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw at the LPAA Thematic Event on Buildings

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'Today is about coming together to agree a better future for the building sector and credible action for climate change. But tomorrow and the years ahead must be about coming together to deliver them in the context of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.'

Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Minister has well established the building sector's importance in bending the climate change curve to stay within the crucial two degree path.

That is why, on behalf of my colleagues at the United Nations Environment Programme, I would like to thank the Government of France and all the other organisations that made it possible to mark the first ever 'Buildings Day' with an event that places the issue at the forefront of the climate negotiations.

The buildings sector is an essential part of everyday life for both developed and developing countries. Unfortunately, as UNEP's Green Economy Report highlights, any profits come at a cost for the environment, with the construction, operation and demolition of buildings responsible for over a third of all CO2 emissions, energy and material resources, and waste products.

If we act now, we can prevent that impact from growing, as urbanisation burgeons to support a population heading to nine billion. Instead we can encourage the sector to support the global transition to an inclusive, green economy. For example, greater collaboration and transparency could overcome the fragmentation that acts as a barrier to both profitability and efficiency gains that could be scaled up through things like district energy, renewables or resource management.

So, we cannot afford to think of this sector purely in terms of climate change. Yes, there is a big impact on global warming that must be addressed. But there is also a big opportunity for public-private co-operation in the building sector to develop ambitious policies and strategies that deliver many other sustainable development goals. As well as creating healthy, sustainable communities, decent work and economic growth, the sector could transform issues like poverty, equality and justice. After all, the challenges faced by individual countries and communities may be different, but the goals are not: safe, resilient, energy efficient and low-carbon buildings, which meet the needs of local people in a global environment. By sharing knowledge and experience from one place, we can broaden and accelerate action in many others, while fostering innovation, developing integrated solutions and expanding workforce capacity at the same time.

In other words, with the right policies, the right market conditions and the right stimulus for change and investment, the sustainable goals can serve as a catalyst for the perfect cycle of benefits. That means sustainable growth and a more skilled workforce for the building sector; social, economic and environmental gains for the country; cost-efficient buildings, services and infrastructure for local authorities with healthier workplaces and homes for the millions of real people who have to share increasingly scarce resources on this planet.

So, ladies and gentlemen, today is about coming together to agree a better future for the building sector and credible action for climate change. But tomorrow and the years ahead must be about coming together to deliver them in the context of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Paris is a great opportunity, whether we build on it is up to us. Thank you.

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