Innovative policy practices to advance building energy efficiency and retrofitting: Approaches, impacts and challenges in ten C40 cities

Gregory Trencher, Vanesa Castán Broto, Tomoko Takagi, Zoe Sprigings, Yuko Nishida, Masaru Yarime

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines ten programmes to advance energy efficiency and retrofitting of existing, private sector buildings in C40 cities in Asia-Pacific and USA. We set out to identify differing policy approaches, together with potential impacts and implementation challenges for each. Findings unearthed six policy models – both mandatory and voluntary – with unique impacts and challenges. We demonstrate that innovation occurs without new policy inventions and largely by necessity, as new features are added and generic models are adapted to local circumstances. Our sample demonstrated experimentation with benchmarking in the USA, comprehensive regulation in Asia, and voluntary approaches in Australia. Overall, environmental impacts are particularly slow to emerge and plagued with attribution challenges. We found limited evidence of benchmarking programme effectiveness in reducing energy consumption in the short-term, but some indication of mid-term outcomes. Driven by unique local circumstances, the cap-and-trade model stood out by fostering large, sustained and attributable GHG emission reductions and retrofitting. Market and social impacts are highly significant across all programmes, highlighting needs to consider non-environmental impacts in policy evaluation. We emphasise the complementary potential of voluntary and regulatory approaches to advancing energy efficiency and climate resilience. We also underscore the potential for reporting or benchmarking programmes to later transition to models mandating performance improvements, such as cap-and-trade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-365
Number of pages13
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 1
Externally publishedYes


  • Building energy efficiency
  • C40
  • City climate governance
  • Policy innovation
  • Retrofitting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Innovative policy practices to advance building energy efficiency and retrofitting: Approaches, impacts and challenges in ten C40 cities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this