The 1997 Kyoto Protocol (born out of the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992) was the world's first collaborative initiative to reduce carbon emissions on a global scale. Buildings, with housing in particular, play a major part in the emissions of the world's developed and rapidly-developing nations and as such, have been the subject of increased regulation since the early 1990's. The challenge of improving coordination between the Kyoto signatories and meeting the tougher targets set at Copenhagen and Cancun, as well as the rapid approach of the end of the first commitment period for the agreement in 2012 mean that these issues remain at the forefront of global concern.
In 2009, PRP were asked to provide a snapshot view of the position countries around the world have taken in addressing the carbon emissions in their respective residential sectors. That study, published as the 2009 edition of this Compendium, proved a valuable international reference. It was reprinted in 2010, by which time other countries were registering interest in being included.
The 2011 Compendium continues the work established with the first edition and has been updated to include new exemplar projects, updates of national targets, and further assessment of programmes, government policy and incentives. In addition to the original fifteen country case studies, five new countries - Brazil, India, Russia, Singapore and South Africa - have been added. Each country has been assessed against a framework of questions and presented in a standard format for easy comparison. These case studies provide information on the geographic, climatic, and statistical indicators for each country as well as a brief review of each country's approach to low and zero-carbon housing. They also include an overview of policy and incentives to achieve environmental targets, mandatory requirements in terms of building energy and design, and an exemplar project that features good practice, innovation and the potential for deployment on a medium to large scale.
We knew a comparative study would prove to be difficult as factors of lifestyle, climate and carbon intensity of national grids have a significant impact on carbon emissions. For example, a country often experiencing -10°C temperatures in winter, such as Austria or Canada, requires more heating energy overall compared to those of temperate countries like France or the UK. A country running mainly on nuclear power would have lower carbon emissions overall compared to a country running mainly on coal. This would influence the carbon emissions of that country whilst not necessarily reflecting improvements in building energy efficiency. Any statistical data must always be analysed with the local socio-political context in mind.
This Compendium aims to create a better understanding of the issues surrounding the achievement and delivery of zero carbon housing, improve the quality of the debate, and set out a basis for better international comparisons and collaboration. While the data from the country case studies do identify a lack of harmony of approach to assessing building performance, they do provide a basis for more detailed evaluation of specific energy and carbon emissions criteria on an international level.