Energy Efficiency Policies and Net-Zero Ambitions: Collaborative Public-Private Partnerships Across Latin America

By |2024-01-04T14:27:30+01:00February 24th 2021|Integrated Planning, Resilient Cities and Climate|

Juanita Alvarez outlines how the Green Building Councils of Latin America employed Public Private Partnerships to join forces for sustainable development.

The Challenge

A third of the world’s energy goes into lighting, heating, and cooling buildings. Avoiding dangerous global climate change rests on significantly reducing this consumption as soon as possible. Building efficiency is not only a climate imperative, it’s a crucial piece of the full, sustainable development puzzle worth an estimated 26 trillion dollars through 2030.

Despite the buildings and construction sector being a significant size, it has traditionally been a fragmented one, slowing the scaling of innovation and best practice from one project to another. This is why the right partnerships and collaborative approaches are so important in tapping into the full savings potential that buildings can deliver.

In a region like Latin America, with 624 million habitants and over 80 per cent of the population living in cities in 2019, achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement requires wide action. Strong and ambitious policies are needed for energy and resource efficiency, as well as best practice, to set a clear path towards decarbonisation by 2050.

I am particularly passionate about this work. Together with their respective local Green Building Councils (GBCs), I have supported over ten cities and states in Latin America to engage with the programme, and to identify their policies and priorities. Leading regional workshops in Colombia and Costa Rica, with over 18 city officials representing ten different countries, helped me see first hand just how many opportunities exist when governments play a leading role in decarbonising our sector. However, to play such a role they need truly empowering partnerships that build their capacity and expand their access to technical expertise grounded in local context.

The Solution

In 2019, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and our Americas Network of 15 Green Building Councils agreed that we need to act fast. We needed to leverage the similarities we share across the region to scale and accelerate public sector efforts to deliver energy and resource efficiency. While we were already a partner of the global Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), we strengthened our efforts with the support of the Partnership for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 (P4G).

Together, we embarked upon a two-year project to rapidly increase the number of cities across the region which were designing and implementing energy and resource efficiency policies.

The beauty of the BEA model is that it expands the capacity of cities through partnerships. This includes working with the right local partners who can provide both technical and industry expertise to ensure that building policies will deliver real impact on the ground. As our Green Building Councils are member organisations composed of stakeholders from across the entire building and construction value chain, this makes them ideal partners. They bring to the table a balanced, cross-sector approach, as well as technical expertise.

As a result of our work with BEA, over 90 government officials have actively collaborated with over 100 partners, who delivered technical and legal guidance for each city’s policy to be designed and published. Over the course of two years, four policies for increased building efficiency have been approved in the cities of Bogota and Monteria in Colombia, and at the state level in Campeche and Yucatan in Mexico, and another ten are currently in development.

We have a strong network of twelve cities/states working with our Green Building Councils, who join a total of 25 cities/states participating in the BEA platform across Latin America. They are driving this work forward in collaboration with our partners such as the World Resources Institute, C40, and ICLEI, amongst others. For more information about the policies and output of this project, visit the WorldGBC website.

In addition to this, we managed to leverage WorldGBC’s Advancing Net Zero project and introduced net zero concepts to this network of cities to help get them started on their journey towards energy efficiency and net zero carbon building.

Lessons Learned and Next Steps

The key ingredients to our success we identified as:

  • Strong, trust-based relationships with local government officials – “champions” – who believe in the cause and can give continuity to the project across administrations.
  • Access to technical capacity and market intelligence.
  • International alignment and momentum – being part of a network of cities internationally helps to maintain momentum, despite any local challenges that may emerge.

The work is far from complete. While we’ve made greater progress then expected, we have received overwhelming interest from cities across Latin America to do more. The next steps in this project include:

  1. Ensuring that the policies currently under development go through to implementation.
  2. Cities/states advancing their mechanisms for reporting and verification in order to measure real time energy and carbon savings.
  3. Including new cities/states with ambitious net zero targets into the programme.
  4. Drafting national decarbonisation roadmaps for the building and construction sector in countries such as Colombia, where the work we have done with the BEA has advanced both existing and new policies in various cities and states.

Achieving a net zero built environment can only become a reality through radical cross-sector collaboration, including all members of the value chain. At WorldGBC we know that the solutions to energy efficient, net zero buildings already exist, so it is our mission to galvanise the important work of our global network and catalyse sustainable buildings for everyone everywhere.

Juanita Alvarez