In Conversation: C40’s Zoe Sprigings leads discussion with the cities of Tokyo and Sydney, newly appointed co-chairs of C40’s Private Sector Buildings Energy Efficiency Network

C40’s Private Sector Buildings Energy Efficiency Network (PSBEEN) has more than 15 active members, spanning Asia, Oceania, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. Member cities recently gathered for a workshop hosted by the Metropolitan Government of Tokyo, where C40 had the privilege of appointing Tokyo and Sydney as co-chairs of the network. The two cities will play a crucial role as thought leaders and communicators, helping to drive the uptake of best practices in global cities. Zoe Sprigings, our Network Manager for Energy Efficiency, talked to city representatives Yuko Nishida (Tokyo) and Tom Belsham (Sydney) to find out more about their cities’ motivation and vision for leadership.

Zoe: Yuko, Tom, to begin with, could you tell us a bit about why your cities joined the C40 Private Sector Buildings Energy Efficiency Network, first as members and now as leadership cities?

Yuko: Tokyo has set itself a target to reduce citywide GHG emissions by 25% and energy consumption by 20% below 2000 levels by 2020. Carbon emissions from the building sector account for a significant portion of Tokyo’s total emissions, and so our climate change policy and programmes focus on the building sector as a matter of course. To achieve these targets, promoting energy efficiency in existing buildings is essential.

In Tokyo, we introduced a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme which sets mandatory targets for large buildings. This has been successfully implemented. Nonetheless, more work is still needed to encourage smaller buildings and residential buildings to use energy efficiently. Information and experiences from other major cities are very relevant to us, and participating in the network provides us with a wonderful opportunity to learn. Moreover, given the increasing urban population and growing emissions from buildings, city alliances to promote energy efficiency in buildings seems crucial for tackling climate change globally. Therefore, Tokyo sees great value in this network and is happy to be a part of it.

Tom: Likewise, Sydney has ambitious plans to help address climate change, including a target to reduce carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 off a 2006 baseline. In Sydney, more than 80% of our emissions are from generating the energy consumed in our buildings, so maximizing their efficiency is vital. We also know that change is not straight forward. Although energy efficiency measures are often cost effective, there are many barriers to their implementation. In Sydney, my job is to engage with our stakeholders to help break down these barriers.

Fortunately, we are not alone in this mission. The C40 network offers wonderful opportunities to learn from others on what has worked (and has not) in other cities; to undertake joint research and projects to extend our knowledge; and simply to discuss the issue of the day with colleagues in other cities facing the same issues. Also, Sydney prides itself as being a global city so we (City and stakeholders) should be comparing our environmental performance with other global cities, as well as learning about and contributing to global best practice.

And as part of this contribution we were delighted to take up the offer to co-lead the buildings network with Tokyo, and help ensure that the network delivers significant value to its members.

Zoe: Tokyo has just hosted the PSBEEN workshop and the Tokyo Forum. Sydney is planning to host next year. What inspired your cities to hold these events?

Tom: Collaboration is all about relationships and meeting face to face is an essential aspect of building those relationships and having meaningful and productive discussions. The Tokyo workshop was the first C40 workshop that I have had the pleasure to attend, definitely exceeding my expectations. And I am looking forward to welcoming members to Sydney in 2015.

Yuko: Usually we interact with other cities around the world using emails, calls and webinars, which are very helpful for us. However, as the previous workshop in Houston clearly showed, meeting in person builds mutual trust among members, which leads to quality discussions and precious information sharing. And, as Tom said, the Tokyo workshop worked wonderfully. I feel our collective knowledge is accumulating and I’m sure that passing to the torch to Sydney will enable it to grow even more.

For Tokyo, we definitely reaped benefits as a host city. Thanks to city participants, we were able to organize the Tokyo Forum and Asian City Workshop on buildings energy efficiency. At these events we brought together other cities with C40 cities after the PSBEEN workshop. It was a great opportunity to share the world’s best practices with other Asian cities and also with local stakeholders.

Zoe: Your two cities demonstrate very different kinds of ways of tackling energy efficiency in buildings, and both are innovative. What is your key experience that you would like to share with other cities?

Tom: Within Australia, local governments have minimal power to legislate and mandate change. For instance, the performance standards for new buildings are set by the Federal and State governments, and Sydney could not require building owners to report their energy performance without an agreement by the State government. Sydney therefore relies heavily on voluntary measures and incentives and ensuring compliance with the mandatory measures that are in place – less stick, more carrot and tambourine! I believe that we have much to offer from our experience of stakeholder engagement and collaborative partnerships.

Yuko: Tokyo is known for introducing its mandatory cap-and-trade scheme, which has certainly delivered tangible results. However, our emissions goal is still far away, and we need innovation and persistence to get there. I think my key message would be about the benefits of working with other cities. Now I have seen how gatherings of city practitioners help support cities with their existing policies, and also create a spark for new ideas. Let’s continue working on that!

To read the full press release from Sydney, click here.

Yuko Nishida is a Planner for the Bureau of Environment, Tokyo Metropolitan Government.  She is a specialist in urban sustainable development issues, and is currently in charge of policy making and international cooperation on climate change and the heat island effect.

Tom Belsham is Manager of the Sustainability Programs Unit at the City of Sydney, where he leads a range of programs aimed at facilitating environmental performance improvements, in line with the Sydney 2030 plan, within key residential and business customer sectors.