Article originally published by Atlanta Business Chronicle on Dec. 20

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai, United Arab Emirates — also called COP28 as an acronym for the 28th Conference of the Parties — concluded on Dec. 12, 2023. More than 65,000 core participants convened to advance the global implementation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement toward the goal of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

While sustainability advocates agree on the value of coordinated worldwide efforts, climate solutions can be more actionable on a local scale. Atlanta-based sustainability nonprofit Southface Institute contributes to decarbonization by improving the built environment throughout the Southeast U.S. Buildings and construction and responsible for 47% of carbon emissions, as the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction reports.

“Building healthier, more resilient communities is our No. 1 goal,” says Southface President James Marlow. “And we only get there through comprehensive solutions that work for everyone.”


Improving building efficiency directly

Improving the efficiency of the physical structure and systems of a commercial or residential building is the most direct way to increase resiliency, affordability, and health while cutting emissions and waste. At Southface, design consulting, building assessments, and certification services guide the process for new construction and renovation projects.


Strengthening safety and support networks

A robust market with the appropriate safeguards is needed to make sustainability more accessible and equitable. Building codes and utility regulations must ensure that lower income residents do not have disproportionately high energy costs or unreliable housing. Workforce training prepares building and construction professionals to meet local demand for high-performance homes and businesses.

Even community-serving organizations, like food banks and youth centers, can be strengthened by sustainability. For example, efficiency upgrades made through Southface’s GoodUse program cumulatively save nonprofits $3.77 million in annual utility costs. These nonprofits report investing their savings back into core services.


Engaging communities to create change

Grassroots efforts to influence elected officials and other key decision-makers often drive the successful adoption of environmental policies and programs. This includes municipal clean energy plans, like those adopted in 2022 by city of Decatur and Athens-Clarke County. Connecting and convening communities plays an important role in decarbonizing buildings in Georgia.


Local solutions yield year-round progress

The next U.N. Climate Change Conference will take place in November 2024. But local sustainability efforts make an impact in Georgia day after day, improving the health and resiliency of our communities while contributing to the progress needed to reach global emissions goals. No passport required.

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