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Buildings and Construction – huge catalyst for energy efficiency or high emissions lock-in for decades? Humanity decides.



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Global focus on climate change has been accelerating over 2019 with activists like Greta Thunberg and single-use plastic bans in the headlines seemingly every day.

The United Nations Secretary General’s Summit for Climate Change this September will gather the world to define a common vision, ambition, and set out an action plan for climate change over the next decade.

It is imperative that buildings and construction, and the almost 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions coming from the sector, are a part of that conversation.

Founded at COP21 and hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) is an international initiative focused on raising ambitions to meet the Paris climate goals and mobilizing all actors along the value chain. With 118 members, including 27 countries, the GlobalABC is the leading global platform for governments, the private sector, civil society and intergovernmental and international organizations to increase action towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector. In 2018, the GlobalABC released the Global Status Report - Towards a Zero-Emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector (GSR) to provide the science to drive policy.

We need buildings to provide healthy, affordable housing for everyone and we need them to be future-proof. We are faced with a unique window of opportunity we must not miss - most buildings that will stand in 2060, especially in rapidly growing cities, are not yet built.  This means now is the time for examining how buildings can contribute to city resilience and how we can address the new trends driving energy demand in buildings, like the rapidly rising demand for cooling.

How can we act together to future-proof our buildings? More effective government policies including mandatory, performance-based building codes, improved finance and market mechanisms, effective design for reduced energy demand, and accelerated retrofitting and renovations are among some of the key recommendations the GSR includes.

Whom can we count on to drive the change? The GlobalABC connects government, private sector and organisations to jointly drive change and work towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector. Jointly taking action and transforming the buildings and construction sector is essential for meeting the Paris Goals.


Hear what global climate leaders have to say:

“Buildings are a key driver of energy demand, and developments within the sector such as the growing uptake of air conditioners are having a big impact on energy and environmental trends at the global level,” said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. “If we don’t make buildings more efficient, their rising energy use will impact us all, whether it be through access to affordable energy services, poor air quality or higher energy bills.” 

 “It’s critical we have a big change over the next couple of years in how we do buildings and construction,” said Joyce Msuya Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment. “We only need to look at the current norms and quality of many buildings to see that we can do so much better. We need to raise the bar in energy-efficient, green buildings and far better practice in construction.”

Progress is happening. In India for instance a state-owned company called Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) is driving down the costs of more efficient air conditioners as well as other key technologies like energy saving Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for lighting. Governments can drive prices, as they are massive procurers. EESL helped to lower Indian prices for LED bulbs by 80% to less than 1 USD and has taken five Indian States to be 100% LED, largely due to bulk purchases of over 308 million lamps.

Efficiency doesn’t just start with lighting. High-efficiency, five-star, air conditioners are now set to have greater penetration in India, thanks to EESL’s efforts. These ACs are only slightly more expensive than the cheapest ones on the market but save householders 30‑40% on their cooling electricity bills.

The time for action is now. Will you be a part of the change?

Learn about this and more in the GlobalABC’s 2018 Global Status Report – Towards a Zero-Emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector available here on our website. This Global Status Report documents the status and trends of key indicators for energy use, emissions, technologies, policies, and investments to track the buildings and construction sector, globally and in key regions.

Central findings of this report include:

Buildings play a dominant role in the clean energy transition. Buildings construction and operations accounted for 36% of global final energy use and nearly 40% of energy‐related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2017.
Global buildings sector energy use continues to grow, but not as quickly as population or floor area. Heating, lighting and household cooking are the most improved building end uses. Continued increases in population and floor area are and will be the principal factors of rising energy demand in buildings.
Buildings and construction sector emissions appear to have levelled off since 2015, although they still represent the largest share of total global energy‐related CO2 emissions. A clean energy transition will enable a steady decrease in future emissions.
Global dialogue is supporting progress in developing policies for sustainable buildings. Most countries have submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that relate to buildings and some have improved them; however, many NDCs still lack specific actions.
Countries are continuing to implement and update building energy codes and certification policies. However, most expected future buildings growth is in countries that do not have mandatory energy codes and policies in place today.
Investment in energy efficiency in buildings has slowed. Incremental energy efficiency investment increased by 4.7% in 2017 (3% adjusted for inflation), which is the lowest rate of increase in recent years.

Interested in hearing about global action in the buildings and construction sector? We gather and disseminate success stories, business cases, case studies, policy and economic analyses and general lessons learned in the transition to a more sustainable buildings stock. Follow our page on LinkedIn.

Share the importance of buildings and construction in the climate debate with the world. Tweet along with us @Join_GlobalABC and with the hashtag #FutureProofBuildings. Find some suggested tweets here for easy sharing.

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