Despite the failure of the December 2009 Copenhagen summit to win global commitment to legally binding measures that would slow the pace of global warming, there are many varied initiatives worldwide - at individual and institutional levels - that look towards conserving the environment, limiting climate change, and supporting the sustainability of the planet.
On the global front, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) and the International Union of Architects (UIA) took a step towards strengthening their working relationship when they signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Sydney in January.
The memorandum defines the collaborative relationship between the UIA and the WorldGBC and sees the two organisations agreeing to form a partnership to accomplish the shared goals of improving energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the world's big cities.
The agreement includes the regular exchange of information to promote a green built environment worldwide, in terms of architectural and urban design and management, and commits the organisations to contribute together to creating a sustainable and carbon neutral society.
The UIA and the WorldGBC will facilitate contact with all union chapters and members and the relevant national green building councils to encourage further collaboration.
WorldGBC chairman Tony Arnel said, "This memorandum of understanding is not just a once a year thing. It is intended to set forth a long-term working relationship between the parties.
"We know that the built environment has a pivotal role to play in greenhouse gas abatement and is capable of delivering carbon emissions reductions more readily and more cost-effectively than any other sector.
"The WorldGBC and the growing international network of green building councils aim to accelerate the transformation of the built environment towards sustainability."
The WorldGBC is a business-led coalition that is driving environmentally and socially responsible building practices globally. Its objective is to build an international coalition that represents the entire global property industry.
In Africa, South Africa is the only country with its own Green Building Council, which is affiliated to the World Green Building Council. UN Habitat is hosting a conference at the United Nations complex in Nairobi, 4 to 6 May, to promote the spread of green building practices and green building rating systems across the continent.
The conference is intended for property owners and developers, building professionals and others involved in the building industry, government officials who work in housing, environment or other related sectors and academics. Attendance is by application and invitation only - and applications must be submitted electronically by 2 April.
The conference will look at the building sector in the context of climate change and sustainable urban development; green buildings and best practice examples from around the world; the benefits of green buildings; green building rating systems and how they work; green building councils and the World GBC; and will consider a network approach to supporting emerging GBCs.
UN Habitat supports the concept of GBCs and their objective, voluntary rating tools which, in its view, can exercise a catalytic, transformative impact on the building sector in a given country.
The conference will address the practicalities of setting up and running a GBC, including considerations of stakeholders, governance and funding, and will explore other approaches to advancing green building practices to find those that might work best in different national contexts and in the context of the African continent. It will also look at how green building rating systems can address low cost housing and low cost building materials.
At home, the Green Building Council of South Africa's (GBCSA's) convention this year is scheduled for 20 to 22 September in Cape Town. For those in or closer to Gauteng, there is the Green Building Conference and Exhibition in Midrand, Johannesburg on 29 and 30 April. The conference organisers, greenbuilding.co.za, a division of alive2green, say that while the 2010 conference will focus on practical and locally applicable case studies, there will also be presentations from leading international professionals. Dr Ken Yeang from Malaysia and Prof M N Fisch from Germany are confirmed as speakers.
Dr Yeang is one of the world's leading architects in ecological and passive low-energy design. He has delivered over 200 built projects and is perhaps best known for his design of 'bioclimatic towers' - low-energy skyscrapers based on bioclimatic design principles - and for his ideas on designing the high-rise building as a vertical interpretation of urban design.
Professor Fisch is the director of the Institute of Building Services and Energy Design at the Technical University of Brunswick, Germany.
For anyone who simply wants to take a stand against climate change, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, WWF, is staging Earth Hour again this year: between 20h30 and 21h30 on the night of 27 March. If you switch off your lights at this time you will be joining millions of people and organisations in a campaign that will circle the world signalling a collective call to combat global warming.
Certainly in South Africa, the National Energy Regulator's recent approval of a 25% to 26% increase in electricity prices from Eskom over the next three years will motivate a growing number of people and organisations to use electricity more wisely - and to investigate alternative energy sources.