As the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, Australia has long been the world leader in the construction of buildings that emit CO2.
This has led to the country having a carbon footprint far more than most developed nations.
But the latest figures released by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) show that, since 2010, Australia’s emissions have increased by an average of 25 per cent per year.
That is more than three times the global average.
“We’ve been pretty much on the same trajectory for a long time,” said Matt Chivers, a researcher at the University of New South Wales.
“And the way we’ve been moving towards it is in the direction of increasing the carbon intensity of the buildings we’re building, which is a good thing.”
The BoM has been collecting the country’s CO2 emissions for more than a decade, but it has now become a much more comprehensive and up-to-date snapshot of the nation’s carbon footprint.
“We have a very high percentage of buildings we’ve actually built that are exceeding the target,” said Dr Chivers.
In 2015, for instance, a total of 12,600 buildings in Australia emitted more than 10 per cent of the world average, while 2,400 buildings emitted less than 0.5 per cent.
“Australia has not been a leader in building buildings to be carbon-neutral,” Dr Chiver said.
But with the BoM’s latest figures, the country has surpassed the rest of the developed world.
The average building in Australia emits 4.4 tonnes of CO2 per square metre, which amounts to an average annual emissions of more than 4,400 tonnes.
“The average building that we have in Australia is emitting more than twice the world standard,” Dr Thomsen said.
“This is a very, very, high number.”
Even more concerning is that the number of buildings in the country emitting more CO2 than the global standard has not gone down.
In 2015, the average building emitted 4.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide, while the global figure was 3.8 tonnes.
The new BoM data also shows that Australia’s build-to, buy-to emissions have grown significantly.
“In 2015 there were 2,600 of these buildings that were exceeding the targets,” Dr Vig said.
That rose to 3,000 buildings in 2016 and 3,200 in 2017.
While Australia has a long way to go to reach the global targets, Dr Thamsen said building a building to be zero-emissions is “one of the keys to achieving a low-carbon economy”.
“We’re really making it a lot easier to do so, by reducing the amount of COII you’re building by a lot,” he said.
“The good news is there are a lot of buildings out there that can be made zero-carbon and built with very little CO2, but the big challenge is making sure that they’re not making too much.”