Paris proof: a road map to sustainability

Windfarm, Friesland, the Netherlands. Photo: Pxfuel

As stakeholders ponder the different ways to achieve the aims of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement, an innovative approach has been taken by the Dutch Green Building Council (DGBC) in the Netherlands. The goal? The creation of a Paris Proof built environment by 2040.

What does Paris Proof mean? A two thirds reduction of energy consumption in comparison to the current average. This is significantly more than what was required in 2016, which was a reduction of one fifth, and therefore represents one of the more ambitious nationally determined contributions (NDCs) from any country.

This multi-year sustainability programme requires an array of route maps across a range of sectors, which will sit under the umbrella of the Delta Plan for Sustainable Renovation. It will require a range of approaches, dependent on the size of the sector in question. For the six largest ones (healthcare, offices, retails, housing, logistics and education), the DGBC has partnered with working groups to push the best sustainability model. This involves, not surprisingly, buildings being tested for their current consumption levels. That’s the first step of the Delta Plan.

How will this work in practice for an organisation? There are six steps along the road:

  1. A portfolio inventory
  2. An analysis
  3. A sustainability plan
  4. Financing the operation
  5. Realising it
  6. Monitoring it

What are the targets? An office building must only use 50 kWh per square meter per year. By 2050, a care building with overnight accommodation will be allowed 80 kWh per square meter. For supermarkets, the number is larger: 150 kWh per square meter per year will still be available by that time. This will hit the two-thirds reduction target.

Of course, there is a bigger picture here than how much energy a given building must be using by 2050. That is the amount of energy that will be available by then. The Netherlands is committed to producing all energy sustainably – by wind, or solar power, for example – by that year, with the result that there will be less energy available; in short, one third of the current amount, with none of it producing CO₂ emissions. Therefore, the overall amount of energy that will be available perfectly aligns with the target for reduction. The detailed figures can be found here.

Participants at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Photo: wikimedia commons

Paris Proof will allow organisations to hit targets 10 years earlier, at a point where the amount of energy available will still be more than the required use under the model. This will obviously aid in future proofing the Netherlands for the new world of 2050.

How was this plan realised? An important step was the Paris Proof working conference that took place in The Hague on June 13th 2019 comprising DGBC participants, members of the Paris Proof working groups and any other stakeholders. This half-day event saw the DGBC present their road maps, with the idea of encouraging businesses to make their own personal versions that are pertinent to their buildings and organisation.

In order to push their plan and encourage its take-up in other countries, the DGBC is hosting the Paris Proof Congress on May 28th this year. Let us hope it’s well attended, encouraging other countries to push aspirational NDCs. This will a huge help in giving the Paris Climate Agreement the best chance of success.