CO2 emissions from building sector highest in 2019: UNEP

The sector’s decarbonisation progress also slowing down, notes report

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 17 December 2020

The building sector emitted more than a third of global energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) — a record 10 gigatonnes (Gt) — in 2019, the United Nations Environment Programme said December 16, 2020.

Building operations accounted for 28 per cent global emissions while construction-related industries (cement, glass, etc) added another 10 per cent, according to the 2020 Global Status Report for Building and Construction.

The CO2 emissions increased due to a high proportion of fossil fuels used for power generation, combined with higher activity levels in regions where electricity remains carbon-intensive, the report said.

Rising emissions in buildings and construction sector emphasise the urgent need for a triple strategy to aggressively reduce energy demand in the built environment, decarbonise the power sector and implement materials strategies that reduce lifecycle carbon emissions, according to Inger Andersen, executive director, UNEP. 

The report also noted that the sector’s decarbonisation progress was slowing down. To get on track to net-zero carbon building stock by 2050, the building sector emissions should fall by around six per cent per year until 2030. 

However, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction’s new Buildings Climate Tracker, which considers measures such as incremental energy efficiency investment in buildings and the share of renewable energy in global buildings, found that the rate of annual improvement was decreasing. 

“It halved between 2016 and 2019. To get the buildings sector on track to achieving net-zero carbon by 2050, all actors across the buildings value chain need to increase decarbonisation actions and their impact by a factor of five,” the report said. 

Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction is a global platform for governments, private sector, civil society and intergovernmental and international organizations to increase action towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector.

The report suggested the governments should help achieve these gains by systematically including building decarbonisation measures into recovery packages by:

  • Increasing renovation rates
  • Channelling investment into low-carbon buildings
  • Providing jobs and increasing real-estate value

While construction activities dropped by 20-30 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 because of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and 10 per cent of overall jobs lost or at risk in the building construction sector, stimulus programmes can create jobs, boost economic activity and activate local value chains.

“Buildings are a strategic sector to simultaneously address global challenges such as climate change, the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, improve living conditions and the resilience of our cities,” said Sergio Israel Mendoza, general director of Environmental, Urban and Tourism Promotion, Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources.

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