Messages from the “Uniting for a Green Building Future” Event

The Global Forum on Sustainable Energy (GFSE) in cooperation with the Austrian Economic Chamber and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) organized a successful Side Event on "Uniting for a Green Building Future" on Wednesday, 25th May 2016.

The Global Forum on Sustainable Energy (GFSE) in cooperation with the Austrian Economic Chamber and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (BMLFUW) recently organized a side event on "Uniting for a Green Building Future". The event took place back to back with the World Bank Conference “Dialogue for Climate Action” on May 24-25, 2016, which brought together CEOs, industries, policy makers and civil society to promote climate competitive industries.

“Uniting for a Green Building Future” took place in the morning of 25 May 2016 and helped build bridges between representatives from international organisations and representatives from the Austrian private sector.

Irene Giner-Reichl, Austrian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China and Mongolia, President of GFSE and Vice-Chair of REN21, together with Franz Bachleitner, Head of the Department for NPI and Export Finance, Austrian Economic Chamber, provided the welcome address, where they emphasized the need to mobilize private finance to facilitate sustainable development in developing as well as developed countries.

Following these speeches, the panelists exchanged experiences and discussed methods to engage Austrian building experts in international initiatives and markets. The panel session was moderated by Ambassador Irene Giner-Reichl.

The event highlighted that a number of international initiatives, like the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) Initiative through its Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform, the Climate Technology Centre & Network (CTCN) or the Private Finance Advisory Network (PFAN) already actively support private sector engagement and provide opportunities to participate in a global network of expertise. Panelists from SE4All and CTCN emphasized the tremendous potential in the green building sector and invited Austrian experts to become more active on the international arena. Monika Weber-Fahr, COO of SE4ALL, explained that initiatives like the SE4ALL Energy Efficiency Accelerator Platform can act as market openers by working together with governments to adapt legal and regulatory framework conditions to meet international standards and also attract foreign actors. During the course of the discussions, participants came to the conclusion that businesses need to start positioning their interests in emerging markets early on in order to fully utilize the business and development potentials. Patrick Nussbaumer from UNIDO highlighted that as a result of its well-established network of consultants, CTCN is able to single out what has worked, bring together the necessary stakeholders and include inputs/lessons learned from previous initiatives in order to maximize project success. The CTCN can help pair up promising projects in developing countries with expertise and financing options from the developed world.

It was further pointed out that international initiatives need to mobilize more finance and strive to interact with representatives from various interlinked sectors. Experts from the Austrian building sector acknowledged the need to become more active on the international arena, but also highlighted some of the related challenges: Particularly small consulting firms face difficulties in bringing specialized knowledge to foreign markets, as tendering requirements often favour bigger players. It was also stated that many firms are already established in neighbouring markets, but lack „business savy“ about markets located further away. Engagement in emerging markets requires some pre-investment, and the build-up of long-term relationships is a lengthy procedure that often entails substantial business risk. Some of these risks and challenges can be mitigated by engaging in an international network, and the Austrian building sector has a lot to offer. Austria has long been a forerunner in green buildings, which is further encouraged by dedicated support programmes like klimaaktiv, the Austrian climate protection initiative. Robert Lechner stressed that the buildings component comprises criteria for energy efficient buildings and a comprehensive database of good practice examples. Initiatives like the Austrian Sustainable Building Council and the newly created Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction provide a number of supporting tools, guidelines and concerted action to further improve the building sector. Stefan Geier from the city of Vienna further noted that a green building future will also have to be addressed from an urban planning perspective and that Vienna can act as a test bed for innovative solutions. Building energy use and the overall sustainability of building construction will also be decided on an urban scale, which the city of Vienna addresses for instance in its Smart City Framework Strategy.

In conclusion, panelists stated the need for urgency in the fight against climate change and emphasized that the scale of investments needed to trigger long-lasting, widespread change is rather small. Innovative solutions are needed to bridge the gap between often small-scale financing that is required for green building solutions, and the activities of International Financial Institutions focusing more on bigger investment volumes. Sustainable cities are expected to play an increasing role on the international agenda, which also puts green buildings solutions at the center of discussion. Innovative approaches can also support private sector engagement in emerging and developing markets like cooperation with the Austrian diaspora or the certification system Austrian Green Building Star, a certificate granted to energy efficient and sustainable buildings abroad which are constructed with Austrian participation.

Agenda

Panelists:

  • Monika Weber-Fahr, COO, Sustainable Energy for All
  • Patrick Nussbaumer, Industrial Development Expert, UNIDO- CTCN
  • Roman Weigl, President, Association of Consulting Engineers
  • Robert Lechner, CEO, Austrian Institute for Ecology and Austrian Sustainable Building Council
  • Stefan Geier, MA 20, City of Vienna