Lower carbon homes, higher quality of life

At a time when the focus is on global agreements and international negotiation, it is important to highlight just how much we could all contribute to reducing carbon by the way we make and use our homes and other buildings.

As noted in the recent report by the Energy Efficiency Financial Institution Group (EEFIG), buildings account for about a third of the world’s energy consumption and global greenhouse gas emissions.

Achim Steiner of the United Nations Environment Programme has stated that improving energy efficiency in the building sector is a global priority. The action needed ranges from retrofit and renovation to smarter, green design and more responsive systems.

But as the EEFIG report demonstrates, in order to make progress, substantial new investment is required, and that represents a very significant and growing market opportunity for investors and businesses. Will we rise to the challenge?

A smart, technology-enabled city is a currently largely untapped source of clean-energy growth that can pay off hugely in the coming decades

There is no lack of evidence of the contribution that smart technologies can make. The SMART2020 report produced by The Climate Group and partners shows smart, digital and ICT-driven solutions for energy efficiency in buildings could potentially deliver global emission savings of 1.68 gigatonnes of CO2 in 2020, worth £172 billion.

We also investigated how technology can be used in cities to meet the growing demands of expanding urbanisation. Our research demonstrated how a smart, technology-enabled city is a currently largely untapped source of clean-energy growth that can pay off hugely in the coming decades.

By working with Philips Lighting and IKEA, we want to ensure that smarter solutions to the way we use our homes are showcased, and associated health and economic benefits are fully recognised. By supporting the Euro-Mediterranean Energy Efficiency Forum, along with the Prince Albert II Foundation, Johnson Controls and GE Lighting, we want to help make sure thought leadership in this area continues to develop in order to inform the work of policy-makers and leaders.

There is much to celebrate and new, highly appealing products are appearing on a regular basis. However, unless access to smart opportunities rapidly extends to all sectors of society, we are not going to see the impact on emissions that we need.

The home is the intersection of a number of systems, including energy, agriculture, water and waste, that all support our quality of life. The home is also where we, as individuals, can directly impact how these systems evolve – or are radically altered – to secure a low-carbon, better quality of life.

We must ensure that meaningful choices and opportunities for radical change are not the preserve of the more affluent and early-adopters. We are all involved in the climate challenge and science tells us the need for a change in emissions trajectory is urgent. So let’s ensure smart technologies and services for the home rapidly become a means for us all to contribute to the solution.