UN: Construction sector emissions continue to rise

ООН: уровень выбросов в строительном секторе продолжает расти

Foreign workers at a construction site in the United Arab Emirates. UN: Construction sector emissions continue to rise Climate and Environment

The construction sector accounts for more than a fifth of global emissions. In 2022, this figure increased by one percent, which was equivalent to an increase in the number of cars by 10 million across the Earth. At the same time, the sector’s energy intensity decreased by 3.5 percent. This is stated in the report published on Thursday.

Global Forum

The study was conducted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Global Alliance for Greening the Construction Industry (GlobalABC). The report examined the state of buildings and the construction sector and presented it on the first day of the Global Forum on Buildings and Climate in Paris.

Key Findings

The report finds that the construction sector accounted for 37 percent of global CO2 emissions in 2022 associated with energy production and technological processes, amounting to just under 10 Gt CO2. Energy consumption reached 132 exajoules, representing more than a third of global demand.

“There is no sustainable way to address climate change without fundamental changes in the construction sector,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. – Half of the buildings that will exist by 2050 have not yet been built. This presents significant opportunities for the sector to reimagine the buildings of the future – buildings that prioritize sustainability, refurbishment and reuse, renewable energy production and low-carbon construction, all while addressing social inequalities.”

Energy intensity of the sector

To achieve the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement, energy intensity in the building sector must fall by 37 percent from 2015 levels by 2030, the first global analysis report found. Although there was a slight decline in 2022, it remained 15 percent above the target.

In 2022, the share of renewable energy in buildings’ final energy consumption was only six percent, which fell well short of the level needed to achieve the target of -18 percent by 2030. Total investments in energy efficiency and high-performance buildings were expected to be 40 percent higher, totaling $2.7 trillion.

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Overall Investment in building decarbonization increased 14 percent in 2022, reaching $285 billion, thanks in large part to US and European responses to energy instability. However, they did not reach the target.

A key reason for last year’s decline in energy intensity per square meter is that 81 countries have building energy codes. At the same time, in 2022, in countries without any building energy regulations, 2.4 billion square meters of housing were introduced – an area equal to the entire building stock of Spain. A projected 80 percent increase in living space by 2030 is expected in low-income countries that lack strict building codes.

How to accelerate decarbonization

Climate action plans for the sector can accelerate decarbonization through the collaboration of policymakers, private companies and NGOs to implement strategies for materials efficiency, low-emission design and technology, electrification and renewable energy. More than 15 national and regional construction and buildings sector plans have been developed with GlobalABC, with 34 countries adopting decarbonisation strategies. The report calls on all countries to develop similar broad-based and comprehensive climate action plans for the sector by 2030 and use them when introducing and reviewing the new cycle of national climate action plans.

Expert recommendations

The study’s authors encourage governments, businesses and civil society to develop building energy codes in line with zero-emission building (ZEC) principles: as of 2022, only three countries have introduced such energy codes. They also recommend increasing the pace of retrofitting existing buildings, introducing passports for all buildings, improving their energy efficiency, and encouraging increased investment in the decarbonization of the building sector, including innovation and a move towards reuse, circularity, natural/bio-based materials or going green. mortgages offered by banks. Such investment is now trending downward as households and businesses face higher borrowing costs and builders face higher construction costs.

A positive development for 2023 was The Breakthrough in Construction project launched at COP28 to coordinate countries’ efforts to make clean technology and sustainable solutions in buildings and the construction sector the most affordable and attractive option in all regions by 2030.

UNEP, GlobalABC members and other partners will continue to work to create a new framework for decarbonization of new and existing buildings and the entire building value chain, including urban development and national development plans, climate adaptation and inclusion. UNEP, as a member of GlobalABC, is supporting the further development of climate action plans for the sector by completing four new pilot projects in Ghana, Senegal, Bangladesh and India.


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