New Delhi, Dec 16 : Emissions from the operation of buildings hit their highest-ever level in 2019, moving the sector further away from fulfilling its huge potential to slow climate change and contribute significantly to the goals of the Paris Agreement, a new report said on Wednesday.
However, pandemic recovery packages provide an opportunity to push deep building renovation and performance standards for newly constructed buildings, and rapidly cut emissions.
The forthcoming updating of climate pledges under the Paris Agreement -- known as nationally determined contributions or NDCs -- also offer an opportunity to sharpen existing measures and include new commitments on the buildings and construction sector.
The 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), found that while global building energy consumption remained steady year-on-year, energy-related CO2 emissions increased to 9.95 GtCO2 in 2019.
This increase was due to a shift away from the direct use of coal, oil and traditional biomass towards electricity, which had a higher carbon content due to the high proportion of fossil fuels used in generation.
When adding emissions from the building construction industry on top of operational emissions, the sector accounted for 38 per cent of total global energy-related CO2 emissions.
"Rising emissions in the buildings and construction sector emphasize the urgent need for a triple strategy to aggressively reduce energy demand in the built environment, decarbonize the power sector and implement materials strategies that reduce lifecycle carbon emissions," said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
"Green recovery packages can provide the spark that will get us moving rapidly in the right direction." "Moving the buildings and construction sector onto a low-carbon pathway will slow climate change and deliver strong economic recovery benefits, so it should be a clear priority for all governments," she said.
To get on track to net-zero carbon building stock by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that direct building CO2 emissions need, by 2030, to fall by 50 per cent and indirect building sector emissions by 60 per cent.
This equates to building sector emissions falling by around six per cent per year until 2030, close to the seven per cent decrease in 2020 global energy sector CO2 emissions due to the pandemic.
Worryingly, the GlobalABC'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 -- finds that the rate of annual improvement is decreasing.
It in fact 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 decarbonization actions and their impact by a factor of five.
Even though progress in efficiency efforts has not kept up with an increase in sectoral growth, there are positive signs and opportunities to catch up on climate action, the report finds.
The recent Emissions Gap Report 2020 from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that a green pandemic recovery could cut up to 25 per cent off predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions and bring the world closer to meeting the two degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Much more needs to be done to get to the 1.5 degrees goal.