UK Green Building Council

Birmingham wins Urban Retrofit Award at UN Climate Change Conference

Date released: 
5 Dec 2011
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Birmingham was recognised for excellence in green building city policy alongside San Francisco, New York, Mexico City, Tokyo and Singapore. The local council received the World Green Building Council's inaugural Urban Retrofit Award during the climate change talks in Durban, South Africa.

In an effort to highlight exceptional local policies that are accelerating green building around the world, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) launched the 2011 Government Leadership Awards for Excellence in City Policy for Green Building at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Birmingham won in the Urban Retrofit Award Category for its Energy Savers Programme, which will work under the umbrella of the Green Deal initiative to refurbish nearly 200,000 buildings. The programme is expected to lead to £1.5 billion of green retrofit work.

Birmingham’s leadership in urban retrofit is trailblazing, and highlights the critical role local authorities can and should play as a trusted partner in rolling out the Green Deal nationally.

Paul King, CEO of the UK-GBC and Chair of the WorldGBC Policy Task Force

He went on to say:

"The scale of Birmingham’s ambition reflects the urgency and size of the task we face, and that represents a tremendous opportunity for green growth and jobs if the public and private sectors work effectively together."

In its inaugural year, the Awards acknowledge international best practice in city-level government policy for green building initiatives and recognize green buildings as an important means to reduce carbon emissions.  Winners were chosen by an expert panel of judges comprised of ICLEI-International, UN-HABITAT and the WorldGBC.

Buildings represent unparalleled potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and cities play a critical role in seizing this opportunity.

Jane Henley, CEO of the WorldGBC

She went on to say:

"The Government Leadership Award entries demonstrate that all around the globe cities are implementing policies that are meeting immediate budget priorities while still addressing longer term emissions reduction goals. These cities have demonstrated that focusing on energy efficiency in the built environment delivers a range of benefits, including operational savings, energy security, health and well-being to building occupants, and provides a much needed boost to the economy. We are pleased to recognize a select few for their drive and innovation."

The WorldGBC Government Leadership Award winners are:

  • Urban Retrofit Award: Birmingham, for Birmingham City Council’s Energy Savers Programme, expected to lead to £1.5 billion of green retrofit work for nearly 200,000 buildings in Birmingham and across the West Midlands over the next 15 years.
  • Best Green Building Policy: San Francisco, USA, for the San Francisco Green Building Ordinance, which requires all new commercial, residential and municipal construction to be built to LEED green building standards, and existing buildings to publicly disclose energy labels, undergo periodic energy audits and mandatory water efficiency retrofits at the time of sale. The impacts of building labeling and auditing alone are expected to reduce emissions by 105,000 tons and have a 10-year net present value of approximately $1 billion. The city has also created financing options to assist the private sector in meeting its efficiency targets.   
  • Climate Action Leadership Award: Mexico City, Mexico, for its Climate Action Plan, which includes multiple programs set to reduce emissions from commercial and residential sectors locally, as well as its unwavering global leadership on the issue of climate change including the initiation of the Mexico City Pact (Global Cities Covenant on Climate), signed by over 200 cities worldwide. Increased energy efficiency measures combined with other aspects of the Climate Action Plan have put Mexico City on track to reduce CO2 emissions by 7 million tons by 2012, allowing strong local action to provide a foundation for their role as an emerging international leader.
  • Regional Leadership Award: Singapore for its Green Building Masterplan, an ambitious plan to “green” at least 80 percent of the building stock in Singapore by 2030, and which entails meeting Green Mark building certification standards. These measures are projected to result in savings of nearly $780 million annually. 
  • Industry Transformation Award: New York City, USA, for its Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, a component of the broader PLANYC policy that requires large commercial buildings to publicly display annual energy and water benchmarks and undergo cost-effective lighting and efficiency upgrades. The plan is expected to reduce the city’s emissions by 5.3 percent below 2009 levels, reduce citywide energy costs by $700 million annually by 2030 and create roughly 17,800 construction-related jobs over ten years.
  • Most Groundbreaking Policy Award: Tokyo, Japan, for the Tokyo Cap-and-Trade Program, the world's first cap-and-trade program covering buildings. The program covers approximately 1,300 large commercial and public buildings and is expected to reduce about 13 million tons of CO2 by 2019.


Over 80 Green Building Councils across the globe, along with ICLEI and UN-HABITAT network members, were given the opportunity to nominate local government policies from their countries for the award. As governments and cities are implementing policies that support green building and communities, the WorldGBC and the Government Leadership Awards are recognising cities making these initiatives and encouraging others to build green.

“‘Local solutions to global challenges’ has been our motto, and cities have indeed shown progressive action towards greener development,” said David Cadman, President of ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and Vice Mayor of Vancouver, Canada. “ICLEI is happy to be a partner to the WorldGBC Government Leadership Awards that recognize world-leading policies by city and regional governments as an incentive for more local leaders to follow.” 

"In the context of rapid urbanisation in many parts of the world, the WorldGBC Government Leadership Awards provide practical ideas for cities to speed up climate change action while improving the quality of the built environment,” said Rafael Tuts, Chief, Urban Environment and Planning Branch, United Nations Human Settlements Programme at UN-HABITAT.

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