The '2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction' finds that “emissions are again rising” and activities to address emissions “are stalling,” a trend that mirrors overall emissions globally.
The report recommends countries include actions to address energy use and emissions, including embodying emissions in the building and construction sector in their NDCs.
The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) has released a global stocktake that finds pollution from buildings and their construction compose approximately 39% of total carbon dioxide emissions. The report calls for “dramatic improvements” in the way the world designs, builds and operates buildings, emphasizing that the need to decarbonize and enhance energy efficiency in buildings at a rate of 3% annually.
The report titled, ‘2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction,’ stresses that the building and construction industry is not on track to contribute to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change or the SDGs. The report finds energy consumption in buildings has increased by 7% since 2010 and by 1% since 2017, driven by floor area and population expansions. Persistent under-investment in energy efficiency measures in the sector means that efficiency improvements were insufficient to outpace demand growth. Without “serious and sustained action,” the report warns that energy demands for the sector could increase by 50% by 2060.
The report identifies an increase in air conditioning and a “surge in space cooling” as a key area of concern. Air conditioners typically use energy generated from fossil fuels and use chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which can release greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Use of air conditioning units has tripled since 2010 and increased by 3% since 2017, primarily as a result of greater cooling demand in hot regions.
In contrast to the 2019 report, the 2018 assessment found that governments, companies and organizations were making progress on tackling emissions in the building and construction industry and suggested that overall emissions might have peaked. Energy efficiency gains in heating, lighting and cooking, combined with increased use of wind and solar power in businesses and homes, contributed to improvements in the industry’s emissions. The 2019 assessment, however, finds that “emissions are again rising” and activities to address emissions “are stalling,” a trend that mirrors overall emissions globally.
The report observes some positive trends, such as a 20% increase in the use of renewables to power buildings since 2010 and the penetration of efficient lighting systems like LEDs. Other positive signs include declines in the use of energy for heating, improved windows and insulation systems, and certifications for high energy performance or low- and zero-carbon buildings. In addition, Canada and Japan are developing new policies to achieve a net-zero and net-zero ready standards for buildings by 2030.
The report recommends that countries include actions to address energy use and emissions, including embodied emissions in the building and construction sector, in their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). The report suggests countries could include actions to mitigate building emissions through switching to renewable and low-carbon energy sources and increased attention to low-carbon building materials, equipment and system efficiency, and nature-based solutions. Global ABC has developed guidance for countries on how to address building-related emissions in NDCs.
International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director, Fatih Birol, observed that the report’s analysis “shows that the pace of energy efficiency improvement slowed to 1.2% from 2017 to 2018, whereas we need a rate of improvement of 3% to meet our Sustainable Development Goals.” Birol highlighted the establishment of a high-level Global Commission for Urgent Action on Energy Efficiency to recommend how to rapidly accelerate progress through stronger policy action.
GlobalABC released the report at the 25th session of Conference of the Parties (COP 25) to the UNFCCC. UNEP and IEA produced the report. IEA is also working to develop regional roadmaps to highlight priority actions for each region and share country experiences in implementing measures to improve efficiency and reduce emissions from building stock. [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: 2019 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction]