Emissions from the construction industry reached the highest ever level in 2019, according to a new report published by the United Nations Environment Programme.
According to the report, although energy consumption from building operations has remained steady year-on-year, energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 9.95 gigatonnes in 2019.
This increase was largely due to a shift away from the direct use of coal and oil and towards electricity, which has 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% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions.
In order to reach net-zero, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that direct building CO2 emissions need to fall by 50% by 2030. This equates to around 6% per year.
According to the report, most countries have yet to submit their Nationally Determined Contribution targets (NDCs), with the building sector lacking any specific mitigation policies, despite its huge contribution to CO2 emissions.
The authors of the report outline that national governments must step up commitments in NDCs, with longer-term climate strategies and support for regulation to spur uptake of net-zero emissions buildings.
Inger Anderson, executive director of the UNEP said: ‘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.
‘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.
‘We need to challenge the incumbency of steel and concrete. Whether or not zero carbon steel and concrete become the materials of the future will depend on how fast those industries innovate in the face of new and disruptive technologies. We have some far-reaching commitments under the Science-Based Targets Initiative by leading materials companies which can serve as examples pushing the industry to go further, together.’
Nigel Topping, United Kingdom High-Level Climate Champion added: ‘We urgently need to address carbon emissions from buildings and construction, which constitute almost 40% of global carbon emissions.
‘We must give governments visibility of this at COP26 to inspire policies and decisions that result in the significant decarbonisation of this sector.’
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