Source: Small Island Developing States
7 December 2018: A report launched by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) against the backdrop of the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC shows a leveling off of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building and construction sector since 2015. It cautions, however, that rising demand for cooling systems has the potential to drive emissions upward, and reveals an investment gap between buildings’ construction and their efficiency.
The publication titled, ‘The 2018 Global Status Report: Towards a Zero-emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector,’ documents the status and trends of key indicators for energy use, emissions, technologies, policies, and investments to track the buildings and construction sector. Highlighting pathways to more sustainable buildings and construction, the report identifies human factors such as user control, as well as architectural, material and urban solutions to ensure low environmental impact.
Increased efficiency in heating, lighting and cooking systems, combined with buildings’ being powered by cleaner forms of energy, has contributed to a flattening of emissions in recent years, the report notes. It further attributes efficiency gains to improvements in buildings’ insulation, use of less energy-intensive construction materials and overall design. A news article in Place calls the finding “a rare bright spot amid a spate of warnings” in the climate space.
The sector’s progress is a rare bright spot amid a spate of warnings in the climate space.
IEA and UNEP underscore, however, that the buildings sector still accounts for nearly 40% of global GHG emissions and, at 36%, is a key driver of energy demand and global energy consumption. The report further notes that there is a growing gap between investment in building construction and renovation and in energy efficiency, which “indicates a slow-down in the rate of energy efficiency investment as a share of total investment.” Further, with air conditioning and other features becoming the global norm as incomes in developing countries rise, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol emphasizes that energy use will rise, and that society must continue to strive to make buildings more efficient.
The report identifies areas for continued improvement, noting that countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on climate change present an opportunity to embed sustainability in the building and construction sector. It warns that NDCs lack specific guidance on implementation and that countries must set or update building energy codes and policies. Recommendations include, inter alia, the leveraging of urban planning policies to reduce energy demand and increase renewable energy capacity, and adapt so that new buildings are resilient to climate change. To this end, the report also features examples of initiatives in both developed and developing contexts that demonstrate the range of solutions reviewed.
The report is presented by the Global Alliance for Buildings an Construction (GlobalABC), for which UNEP serves as the secretariat. GlobalABC focuses on five main work areas: awareness and education; public policies; market transformation; finance; and building measurement, data and information. [Publication: Global Status Report 2018: Towards a Zero-emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector] [Publication Landing Page] [UNEP Press Release] [UN News Release]