Despite CO2 emissions from buildings and construction falling significantly in 2020 due to Covid 19 restrictions, a lack of real transformation in the sector will only lead to a rise in emissions and contribute to dangerous climate change, according to the 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction.
The report, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) -hosted Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), said that the sector in 2020 accounted for 36 per cent of global final energy consumption and 37 per cent of energy related CO2 emissions, as compared to other sectors. The report notes that emissions are set to rise if there is no effort to decarbonize buildings and improve their energy efficiency. It said that Asia and Africa will see doubling of the building stock by 2050. Global material use is expected to more than double by 2060, with one-third of this rise attributable to construction materials.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen noted that 2021 showed that climate change is an immediate direct threat to every community and it is only going to intensify. “The buildings and construction sector, as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, must urgently be decarbonized through a triple strategy of reducing energy demand, decarbonizing the power supply and addressing building materials carbon footprint, if we are to have any chance of of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C,” she said.
The construction and operation of buildings was responsible for 38 per cent (13.1 gigatons) of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2015. on te other hand, this fell 11.7 gigatons in 2020, a level not seen since 2007. This decline was driven largely by reduced energy demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also by continued efforts to decarbonize the power sector. When 90 countries in 2015 included actions for addressing buildings related emissions or improving energy efficiency in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, 136 countries mentioned building emission reductions in their NDCs in 2020.
Since 2015, an additional 18 countries have put in place building energy codes – a move that is crucial to shift emissions downwards – bringing the total to 80. Local cities and governments have also developed codes. Investment in energy efficiency rose to over 180 billion USD in 2020, up from 129 billion in 2015. Green building certification has increased by 13.9 per cent compared to 2019. Overall, however, the report finds that these efforts are insufficient, both in terms of speed and scale.
OTHER KEY FINDINGS
- Two-thirds of countries still lack mandatory buildings codes
- most of the increase in energy efficiency spending came from a small number of European countries
- Too small a share of finance goes into deep energy retrofits, and there is a lack of ambitious decarbonization targets in NDCs.
Energy demand in the buildings and construction sector is likely to rebound as economic recovery efforts take hold and as pent-up demands for new construction are realised. By 2030, to be on track to achieving a goal of net-zero
and as pent-up demands for new construction are realized, the International Energy Agency says that direct building CO2 emissions would need to decrease by 50 per cent. Indirect building sector emissions will have to drop through a reduction of 60 per cent in power generation emissions. To achieve these goals, the report finds, the sector must take advantage of every lever.
OPPORTUNITY TO INVEST IN DECARBONIZING
- Countries need to harness the sector’s transformative potential for achieving the energy transition
- Governments need to commit to further decarbonising the power, as well as heating and cooling energy supply. This includes stepping up ambition in NDCs to include building decarbonization targets that contain the so-far largely overlooked embodied carbon, emissions from the production of building materials
- The rate of growth of investment in building efficiency need to double to over 3 per cent per year and must expand beyond direct government investment to private investors
- Scope and coverage of building energy codes need to increase. All countries need to have in place mandatory building energy codes, and these would ideally address performance standards for building envelopes, design, heating, cooling, ventilation systems and appliances, and ensuring links with integrated in urban planning.
- Buildings’ resilience needs to increase to future proof our homes and workspaces.