Expert Voices: Arah Schuur

One of the more accessible, economically inviting and impactful actions cities can take to address climate change involves making existing buildings more energy efficient. Here, the Director of CCI’s Building Retrofit Program shares her perspective on the opportunities and barriers to large-scale climate action in the building sector. Arah has been with CCI for over three years, and previously worked in real estate development in the private and public sectors. At the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in Sao Paulo, she will participate in the session on Energy Efficiency in Existing Buildings, which looks at a range of retrofitting options from across the C40, with an emphasis on funding mechanisms and policy drivers.

“It’s no longer breaking news that reducing the energy used by buildings is an extremely impactful and cost-efficient way to address one of the key sources of urban greenhouse gas emissions. Retrofitting existing buildings, very few of which were designed and built to be efficient, represents a tremendous opportunity to reduce carbon emissions in a financially attractive way. The numbers are compelling: building energy use can contribute up to 80 percent of a city’s carbon emissions; while energy-reducing retrofits consistently rank among the most cost-efficient climate mitigation measures, with strong return on investment. Yet, pervasive barriers, such as the lack of established contracting methods, access to competitively-priced capital and regulatory drivers for the private sector, continue to hold back global action.

Cities, which own and operate their buildings and often have strong influence over the privately-owned buildings within their boundaries, are the natural lead-actors in the retrofit market. Many of the C40 cities are taking action. London and Houston, for example, are undertaking large-scale energy efficiency projects in municipal  buildings; while Tokyo, Melbourne, and New York are among those cities implementing innovative policies and programs that encourage, support or mandate higher standards of efficiency from private building owners. 

CCI’s Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program has been working with cities to develop these projects and disseminate the lessons learned to others in the C40 network. We are looking forward to the C40 Mayors Summit in Sao Paulo next week, where many of the cities will share the successes of their programs and innovative policies. We’re expecting good conversation about how cities can share knowledge and resources to overcome the barriers to larger-scale building efficiency success.”

For more information, please visit the CCI’s building retrofit page