Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions from buildings and construction projects has hit a new high in the world, the 2022 Global Status Report has revealed.
The report published as part of the latest round of climate talks at COP27 in Egypt said buildings and construction projects have left the sector off the track towards decarbonization.
The 2022 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction found the sector accounts for over 34 percent of energy demand and around 37 percent of energy and process-related CO2 emissions in 2021.
The new report said in spite of an increase in energy efficiency investments and lower energy intensity, the building and construction sector’s energy consumption and CO2 emissions have rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic to an all-time high.
The report noted that the sector’s operational energy-related C2 emissions reached ten gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent, about five percent over 2020 levels and two percent over the pre-pandemic peak in 2019.
For instance, in 2021, the report said investments in building energy efficiency increased by 16 percent to $237 billion, but growth in floor space outpaced efficiency efforts.
The sector’s 2021 operational energy-related CO2 emissions were up five percent over 2020 and 2 percent over the pre-pandemic peak in 2019.
This, the report from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) means the gap between the climate performance of the sector and the 2050 decarbonisation pathway was widening.
“In 2021, operational energy demand for heating, cooling, lighting and equipment in buildings increased by around four per cent from 2020 and three per cent from 2019.
“Years of warnings about the impacts of climate change have become a reality. If we do not rapidly cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, we will be in deeper trouble.”
“The buildings sector represents 40 percent of Europe’s energy demand, 80 per cent of it from fossil fuels. This makes the sector an area for immediate action, investment, and policies to promote short and long-term energy security,” the report said.
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen, said decarbonizing the buildings sector by 2050 was critical to delivering the desired cuts in emissions.
To reduce overall emissions, Andersen said the sector must improve building energy performance, decrease building materials’ carbon footprint, multiply policy commitments alongside action and increase investment in energy efficiency.
The report also said raw resource use was predicted to double in Africa by 2060, with steel, concrete and cement already major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions on the continent.
The new study revealed that materials used in the construction of buildings in the region already account for around nine percent of overall energy-related CO2 emissions.
“Embodied carbon in buildings – the emissions associated with materials and construction processes – needs to be tackled to avoid undermining energy-saving measures.
“However, the sector can reduce its impact by, for example, looking at alternative materials and decarbonising conventional materials such as cement,” the report said.
To avoid increasing emissions, while building the stock necessary to move people out of informal settlements, and to create buildings that are resilient to the impacts of climate change, the African sector should look at sustainable construction materials and design techniques, in which the continent was rich.
“The African population is expected to reach 2.4 billion people in 2050 and 80 percent of this growth will occur in cities. An estimated70 per of the African building stock expected for 2040 has yet to be built.
“Africa is also rich in renewable energy sources, solar and wind, which nations can use to power their buildings sustainably,” said the report.
It recommended, however, that Africa build coalitions of national stakeholders to set targets and strategies towards a sustainable, zero-carbon and resilient buildings and construction sector through Buildings Roadmaps. (NAN)
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