Environmental Equality

Roger Platt

U.S. Green Building Council

In early December, some of the brightest minds in government, business, and civil society gathered in Paris to discuss perhaps the greatest threat of our time: climate change. At the COP21 talks, USGBC’s voice was central in showcasing green buildings as critical solutions to climate change, and I was honored to lead our delegation to the conference.

COP21 was about more than a commitment to change or a concern for the environment, it was about leadership and transformation, two concepts we are very familiar with at USGBC.

In the months preceding the negotiations, we called on our base of member companies, many of which operate in industries or sectors directly impacted by the effects of climate change, to come together as one voice in support of a global agreement in Paris. More than 150 major companies, a third of which are USGBC members, signed on to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Additionally, a growing number of companies in our sector joined the Building and Real Estate Climate Declaration, a collaborative effort among USGBC, the Carbon Leadership Forum, and Ceres, spotlighting the role of green building in climate action.

USGBC was proud to partner with the National League of Cities, the World Wildlife Fund, and ICLEI to support a contingent of mayors from cities and towns across the U.S. who proactively address and mitigate climate impacts. The voices of these local leaders were heard on the international stage in France, and their efforts provided examples of the power and purpose of leadership on every level.

COP21 concluded with 195 countries signing on to the Paris Agreement, marking the broadest global consensus on the need for individual and collective actionon climate change to date. At USGBC, we continue to advance green building as a viable solution to the monumental challenge of climate change mitigation. Studies show that green buildings measurably reduce greenhouse gas emissions from water consumption, solid waste, and transportation, as compared to conventional buildings. Moreover, green buildings are designed and built with the full life cycle in mind and actively influence inhabitants in ways that support the climate.

Our commitment to climate action focuses on large-scale transformation. Specifically, we have pledged to scale up to support the LEED certification of more than 5 billion square feet of real estate over the next five years. Additionally, we will work to support the adoption of EDGE as a key tool for energy efficiency in developing countries.

We will work to expand non-English educational offerings. We will use the holistic LEED framework to boost net-zero building programs. And we’ll support carbon reductions through better integration of demand-side technologies and supply-side modernization, including the application of the Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal (PEER) system.

There has never been a more critical moment for our industry to lead and to transform the status quo into something greater. Two decades ago, green building was a vision for the future; today it is a reality across the country and around the globe. It is a tool we can leverage for a still greater good. The challenge of climate change mitigation demands our best ideas, our best intentions, and our best efforts, and the green building industry is poised to respond.