Home » Transitioning to net zero a necessity, not an option
Africa Business Defence Economy Featured Global News News Politics

Transitioning to net zero a necessity, not an option

This is very true. Perceptions about the high cost of green building are a major barrier, even though it is not really as bad as people believe. The cost premium of going green is usually not more than five to ten per cent, except where the developer opts for complex hi-tech solutions. The issue of cost premiums can also be partly offset through green financing, which offers very low interest rates and generous repayment terms.

Other factors against the adoption of green building are more challenging to solve. Top of the list is lack of awareness and education. Majority of construction activity in Nigeria is small to medium-size projects done by self-builders. Most of these people may not be aware of the concept of green building or its benefits, especially in relation to climate change. This lack of awareness even extends to consultants and contractors, who, as a result, are often not familiar with green building designs and techniques. As such, even where the developer wants to build green, it is difficult for him to find professionals to help him do so.

Adding to this is Nigeria’s lack of a policy and regulatory framework to support green building and unavailability of environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. Nigeria will need to address these barriers, if we are to increase the adoption of green building in the country. This will require collaboration between government, professionals, the private sector, civil society, academia and media. We will all need to work together through educational initiatives, policy and regulatory changes, investment in local material and technology.

Nigeria is facing challenges of substandard building materials. How do we accelerate the adoption of sustainable building materials and construction technologies? What policies are necessary to champion the implementation of green buildings in the country?
The proliferation of substandard building materials is truly a problem in Nigeria. There are several reasons for this, including ignorance of buyers, poor or unenforced regulations and desire to save money by buying cheaper products. When you combine this with poor construction practices, you realise why we have so many shoddily constructed buildings that threaten the health, safety of occupants and surroundings.
Accelerating the adoption of sustainable building materials and construction technologies – which tend to be of better quality – is one solution to this problem. But achieving this will not be simple; it requires a multi-faceted approach, involving a mixture of policy adjustments, awareness campaigns, education and local technological innovation. The starting point must, however, be for state governments to develop and enforce stringent building codes and standards. These should discourage the use of substandard materials, with severe penalties for defaulters, while encouraging the use of sustainable materials through incentives like reduced planning fees, tax rebates, subsidies or concessionary loans.
Policy adjustments may, however, not be enough. They need to be supported with public awareness campaigns on the dangers of substandard materials and benefits of ‘green’ materials, capacity building to ensure that workers can handle sustainable materials & technologies, and promotion of local research to develop low-cost alternatives to expensive foreign sustainable materials and technologies.

The built environment generates 40 per cent of yearly global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Of those total emissions, building operations are responsible for 27 per cent, while building and infrastructure materials and construction are responsible for an additional 13 per cent. What steps are required to reduce these emissions in buildings?
 The built environment is the major villain in the global climate crisis. It is the largest single contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, surpassing manufacturing, transportation and agriculture. In fact, if you add cities into the mix, three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to urban environments. How do we address this? Reducing carbon emissions from buildings and infrastructure involves several interrelated steps, including making changes to the design, operation, and construction of buildings and the materials used in their construction.
For operational emissions, improving the energy efficiency of buildings can substantially reduce the emissions they generate. This can include everything from installing more efficient air-conditioning, to using Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) lighting. Switching from fossil fuels, like natural gas, to renewables like solar and hydropower is another way to go.
Encouragingly, many Nigerians are investing in solar home systems and switching to energy efficient lighting. Though, this is more the result of the high cost of diesel, the end result is what matters. The government is also playing its part through a plan to offer subsidised solar home systems to five million families. Selecting low carbon materials or reducing the amount of materials you use is the other way to go. This is a bit more challenging for Nigerians because of the lack of these types of materials or the expertise to use them.
Nevertheless, there are also some encouraging signs here. Lafarge, for example, has recently introduced low-carbon cement into the Nigerian market. But what is Green Building Council Nigeria (GBCN) doing on this issue? We have made advocacy and capacity development on decarbonisation a priority. For example, we recently held a highly attended webinar in which we explored the issue and encouraged professionals to up skill. We are entering into a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), to promote their Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies (EDGE) green building standard, an effective tool achieving reductions in carbon from both building operations and materials.

Nigeria suffers from multiple climate change effects with multiple economic and social consequences, how do the country achieve sustainable, inclusive development and transition to net zero?
 Climate change is not just an abstract problem for us in Nigeria. According to research by Notre Dame University, Nigeria is the 53rd most vulnerable country in the world, ranking below neighbours like Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Benin Republic. We see its effects in recent heat waves we’ve been experiencing and devastating flooding that has become a yearly rite of passage.

In fact, one expert has calculated that climate change is already costing Nigeria about $100 billion yearly in economic losses, and that this could rise to $450 billion by 2050 if nothing is done. Dealing with climate change by transitioning to net zero is therefore a necessity, not an option. However, doing this is not cost free.

So, how do we achieve sustainable and inclusive development, while transitioning to net zero in a country like Nigeria with diverse climate change effects, economic disparities, and social challenges? Part of the solution (from a purely built environment perspective) is sustainable construction, which provides the twin benefits of mitigating climate change and increasing climate-resilience of our buildings and cities. An expansion of green building, which can both reduce energy demand and help cope with heat waves through passive cooling, is one practical strategy.

To ensure that the benefits do not only fall to those who can afford it, the government will have to provide subsidies and other financial sweeteners to poorer families to help them build green, for example to buy home solar energy systems. Our state governments also need to take current and future climate impacts, like flooding, into consideration in urban planning and infrastructure development. Their decisions must be guided by climate justice considerations, otherwise poorer districts and neighborhoods, which already bear the brunt of flooding, will continue to be shortchanged.

Looking beyond the built environment, Nigeria also needs to harness its significant renewable energy potential, particularly in solar and hydropower, invest in climate-smart agriculture, and protect our forests. Lastly, of course, all these need to be fashioned around inclusive policies and social protections that address social and economic disparities and protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of climate change. To summarise, achieving net-zero emissions and sustainable development requires a holistic approach that engages all sectors of society and aligns economic development with environmental sustainability to help the country realize the transition.

Last year, a roadmap of policy priorities and programs intended to guide Africa’s transition to greater urban sustainability was fashioned under the World GBC’s Africa Manifesto for Sustainable Cities and the built environment. What are the ingredients of this manifesto?
GBCN is very proud to have been involved in the development of the Africa Manifesto for Sustainable Cities and the Built Environment, which was launched in Cape Town, South Africa last year. The Africa manifesto is the outcome of a collaboration between 15 national green building councils from across Africa – from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Mauritius, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa – representing a population of 700 million people.
As such, it is a uniquely African document, an urban vision of Africa by Africans for Africans. It articulates the policies and commitments that African business leaders and policymakers must implement to deliver a net zero carbon, healthy, equitable, resilient, environmentally-sustainable and economically-inclusive built environment for every African, everywhere. The manifesto advocates that this can be achieved through various initiatives spread across five priority areas of energy, water, materials, finance and infrastructure.
African GBCs and partners identified these areas as strategically important to increase climate ambition, as well as achieve the vision of a prosperous Africa, ensure inclusive growth and sustainable development. Through a series of regional roundtables, additional cross-cutting principles were also identified as health & wellbeing, circularity, equity, resilience, adaptation and research and innovation.
Against each priority area, the manifesto lists common tasks that GBCs representing the five geographic regions of Africa – Southern, Western, Central, Northern and Eastern Africa – identified. These tasks are based on challenges and opportunities identified across the regions and comments received from public consultations in August last year. The results are these agreed upon policy and commitment tasks that will support the four strategic intervention axes of the ‘African Union Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan 2022-2032’.

Green Building Councils in other climes have been popular and driving cost-effective solutions for carbon reduction, job creation, and innovation? Why has your organization not been able to make much impact yet? How are you transforming communities with zero-carbon green buildings? Which type of residential units have a large footprint?
I must confess that GBCN’s impact may not be as big as that of GBCs in other countries. Especially in Europe and North America and, even, some in Africa. I would excuse this on the grounds that we’re still relatively young – less than two years old. I am, however, pleased to say that, during this relatively brief period, GBCN’s efforts have delivered notable gains in four critical areas: education and awareness, policy advocacy, research and innovation, and collaboration and partnership.
What are some of these gains? GBCN has scored major achievements in the areas of sustainability education and awareness. We have held eight virtual and two in-person events addressing various green building issues, for instance, energy efficient design, indoor environmental quality, decarbonisation, waste minimisation, and green building certification systems.
These events successfully increased awareness and shared knowledge of green building to nearly 2,000 professionals from 20 countries, providing impetus for a shift towards sustainable design and construction. Supportive policies are key to advancing green building in Nigeria. Accordingly, we have been working with local and international partners to develop green building policy frameworks and guidelines in Nigeria and the wider Africa.
For example, in March 2021, we hosted a panel of local and international experts to x-ray Nigeria’s National Building Energy Efficiency Code. GBCN was also actively involved in development of two key policy documents authored by World GBC: the Africa Manifesto for Sustainable Cities and the Built Environment (launched in November 2022) and the Global Policy Principles for a Sustainable Built Environment (launched in April 2023). Lastly, GBCN believes in the power of collaboration and partnership and has been actively leveraging these to create an ecosystem that fosters the growth and development of green building practices in Nigeria.
This includes engagements and collaboration with key partners, like the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors and the Federation of Construction Industry. We are developing relationships with local and international partners like National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), International Finance Corporation (IFC) and several academic institutions. These are just some examples of what we’ve been able to achieve in our two short years of existence.

And, we don’t intend to stop there. Looking forward, we hope to build on these successes, through an ambitious set of goals and activities, including ramping up our green building education program and expanding our local, international and regional partnerships.

The Green Building Council Nigeria (GBCN) is planning the Future Cities Summit with the theme “Towards a Net Zero and Climate-Resilient Nigeria”. What’s the aim of the summit?
The Future Cities Summit is being organised by GBCN in partnership with IFC. This is the first edition of what is intended to be our yearly flagship event, designed as a forum to discuss the current state of the Nigerian built environment and explore potential strategies and policies to increase the country’s stock of green buildings as well as make our cities more sustainable.
This year’s event will bring together key stakeholders within the real estate and construction sector. The event, themed ‘Towards a Net Zero and Climate-Resilient Nigeria,’ aims to catalyze change in the built environment by exploring innovative strategies and policies to enhance green practices for buildings, while simultaneously fostering the creation of sustainable cities. The event aligns with the World Green Building Council’s Africa Manifesto for Sustainable Cities and the Built Environment, which outlines a comprehensive roadmap to guide Africa’s transition to greater urban sustainability.
The summit will serve as a crucial platform for about 1,000 built environment professionals and stakeholders, providing opportunities for thought leadership, industry networking, sustainability advocacy, and recognition of initiatives.
Attendees can expect engaging panel discussions, interactive sessions, and insightful presentations from renowned experts in the field, sharing their knowledge and experiences to drive positive change. Through the summit, GBCN will provide an avenue to empower attendees with the shared vision of policies and programs needed to create net zero and resilient Nigerian cities, showcase sustainable building practices and highlight the progress achieved in green buildings in Nigeria. I encourage you and your readers to attend and be part of Nigeria’s green building revolution.

Source: The Guardian