Towards a zero-emissions, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector.
The buildings and construction sector accounted for 36% of final energy use and 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2018, 11% of which resulted from manufacturing building materials and products such as steel, cement and glass. This year’s Global Status Report provides an update on drivers of CO2 emissions and energy demand globally since 2017, along with examples of policies, technologies and investments that support low-carbon building stocks.
In 2018, global emissions from buildings increased 2% for the second consecutive year to 9.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2), suggesting a change in the trend from 2013 to 2016, when emissions had been levelling off. Growth was driven by strong floor space and population expansions that led to a 1% increase in energy consumption to around 125 exajoules (EJ), or 36% of global energy use. A major source of rising energy use and emissions by the global building stock is electricity, the use of which has increased more than 19% since 2010, generated mainly from coal and natural gas. This indicates how crucial it is to make clean and renewable sources of energy accessible, and to use passive and low-energy designs more widely in building construction.
This 2019 Global Status Report on buildings and construction tells us that the sector is not on track with the level of climate action necessary. On the contrary, final energy demand in buildings in 2018 rose 1% from 2017, and 7% from 2010.
These findings stand in stark contrast with the 2019 Emissions Gap Report, which states that we will have to cut almost 8% of emissions each year from 2020, and are confirmed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2019, which found that in 2018 the rate of improvement in energy intensity had slowed to 1.2% – less than half the average rate since 2010. Both reports underline the need for urgent action by policy makers and investors. To meet the SDGs and the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario, we need to reverse the trend and make a concerted effort to decarbonise and enhance energy efficiency in buildings at a rate of 3% a year.
The 2018 Global Status Report on buildings and construction found that a total of 136 countries have mentioned buildings in their NDCs, yet few have specified the actions they will use to reduce emissions. Therefore, in their new NDCs, nations must prioritise actions to decarbonise this essential sector. This means switching to renewable energy sources. It means improving building design. It means being more efficient in heating, cooling, ventilation, appliances and equipment. It means using nature-based solutions and approaches that look at buildings within their ecosystem, the city.