The Global Green Argument: Who Will Voice the Debate — and How?

Yesterday, we talked Dubai: Big growth, some Micha...

Yesterday, we talked Dubai: Big growth, some Michael Jackson sightings and the fact it’s considering going green.

But Dubai isn’t the only global power looking to add some green to its geography. Several growing countries are making efforts to incorporate sustainability in their construction plans, including:

  • India — The real estate sector in India is growing 30 percent by 2010, to a $50 billion industry, according to Al Bawaba — prompting green building talk. The savings and environmental impact are starting to register with the country, who in 2003 had only 20,000 square feet of green new construction.
  • Australia — In Australia, The Property Council of Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation, made up of developers and conservationalists, are lobbying the government to add a nationwide program with financial incentives to improve energy efficiency in all new construction and pre-existing buildings.

Those are just two examples — but a positive sign, since green building didn’t exactly seem to be a global priority a few years back. Just ask Hewitt Associates’ Bill Hewitt, an environmental advocate with an M.S. in international affairs.

"In 2005, there was an estimated $6 trillion in the value of new construction around the world," Hewitt wrote in a column for the Foreign Policy Association. "A relatively small proportion of that is in green building now, but projects and plans are mushrooming at a rapid pace"

The news has been dominated — this week especially — with news of the slowing U.S. construction market.

But in countries where growth is still strong, due to booming population or other factors, housing construction continues. And those countries, like Dubai, have a real chance to make an ecological impact by practicing green building principles.

Construction that involves responsible waste management and recycled building materials to create green buildings makes an immediate impact — and the buildings, over time, will cause less of an impact on the environment. From water conservation aspects to using solar energy, the sustainable options are endless — but who will encourage these emerging markets to build green?

Some international green organizations do exist — notably the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, a CEO-led, global association of 200 companies from 35 countries that has support from corporations like Toyota, Royal Dutch Shell and Nokia.

The WBCSD’s “Energy Efficiency in Buildings” (EEB) project is designed to make sure that by 2050, new buildings will consume zero net energy from external power supplies and will also produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions.

It’s an ambitious goal. But, then again, consider that buildings use about a third of the world’s energy — and will use even more as the global population increases. If we continue along the current course, buildings will be the main users of energy by 2025, according to the WBCSD.

The group also reports that buildings account for 40 percent of energy consumption in developed countries — as some of these companies develop more, that’s a real concern.

To read more about the EEB project, click here — and tell us what you think. How can an international organization — the WBCSD or one like it — convince a number of disconnected nations, with their own government and goals, that building green is a viable cost and ecological option? Or is it just too large a task to attack on a global scale? We want to hear your theories.