COP24: Huge untapped potential in greener construction, says UN environment agency

UN News/Matt Wells UN Environment (UNEP) and Yale University’s Ecological Living Module; a sustainable tiny house exhibited at UN Headquarters in New York.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

Noting some progress in greening the global construction industry, the United Nations environment agency (UNEP) co-released a report on Friday at the COP24 climate conference in Katowice, Poland, sounding the alarm on the need for “dramatic action” to reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s critical we have a big change over the next couple of years in how we do buildings and construction”, said Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director of UNEP. “We only need to look at the current norms and quality of many buildings to see that we can do so much better,” she said, emphasizing that “we need to raise the bar in energy-efficient, green buildings and far better practice in construction.”

Currently, buildings account for close to 40 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and 36 per cent of all energy consumption. In the report, which was co-authored by the International Energy Agency (IEA), UNEP warned that “dramatic action will be needed by governments, cities and business if the global buildings and construction sector is to cut its carbon footprint in line with international agreements.”

Titled ‘Towards a Zero-Emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector’, the report was presented against the backdrop of ongoing COP24 negotiations on how to move ahead with the implementation of the climate action agreement adopted in Paris, in 2015, when 197 parties committed to limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The development of new techniques, tools, products and technologies – such as heat pumps, better windows, stronger insulation, energy-efficient appliances, renewable energy and smarter design – has enabled emissions to stabilize over the past few years.

There are other encouraging signs. Several property, construction, cement and steel-manufacturing firms are among the 500 companies (representing trillions of dollars in revenue) which have aligned their emission reduction targets with the Paris Agreement; and the 71-member private sector network, the World Green Building Council non-profit organisation, is advocating for all buildings to emit zero net emissions by 2050.

There is huge potential to reduce the current level of emissions, but action has been too slow, environmentalists say. To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, hosted by UNEP, is targeting a 30 per cent energy use improvement in the buildings and construction sector.

Buildings are ‘key driver of energy demand’

What will make things even more challenging, is that the number of new buildings is anticipated to grow rapidly in the coming years, especially in the urban areas of Africa and Asia.

“Buildings are a key driver of energy demand, and developments within the sector such as the growing uptake of air conditioners are having a big impact on energy and environmental trends at the global level,” said Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, which is an autonomous intergovernmental organization.

The new report highlights a major gap between the amount of money spent on energy efficient solutions and the rapidly growing amount invested in building construction and renovation. “If we don’t make buildings more efficient, their rising energy use will impact us all, whether it be through access to affordable energy services, poor air quality or higher energy bills,” warned Dr. Birol.

In particular, the data raises a red flag over the sharply rising demand for cooling systems and air conditioners; linked with improving living-standards in developing countries coupled with rising temperatures in many parts of the globe, due to climate change. Since 2010, the energy used by cooling systems has increased by 25 per cent and there are now more than 1.6 billion air conditioning units in service.

One of the commitments of the Paris Agreement is for countries to develop and scale-up their own national climate action plans but, to date, only 104 plans mention specific actions to enhance energy-efficiency in buildings, building codes and energy certifications. Very few tackle the issue of construction materials – such as steel and cement – and the carbon emissions involved in their manufacturing.

Another area of action recommended by the report is the need for building standards to evolve towards buildings that are more resilient in the face of climate change and extreme weather events, such as storms and hurricanes, floods, high winds and soaring temperatures.







the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

What keeps me up at night? Two strategists reply

JADE at European Business Summit 2015

Central Asia: the European Union matches political commitment with further concrete support

Despite lagging in the Global Goals, Africa can meet the 2030 deadline: Rwandan President

Safer products: stepping up checks and inspections to protect consumers

YouTube stars get creative at UN, to promote tolerance

‘Act now with ambition and urgency’ to tackle the world’s ‘grave climate emergency’, UN chief urges UAE meeting

New energy Projects of Common Interest for the Energy Union built on European solidarity

Parliament sets conditions on EU-China investment deal

Ebola in DR Congo: conflict zones could constitute ‘hiding places’ for the deadly virus – WHO chief

We can save the Earth. Here’s how

4 key steps towards a circular economy

ECB asks for more subsidies to banks

No patents on naturally obtained plants and seeds

MWC 2016 LIVE: Mobile World Congress shows off planes, trams and automobiles

Progress against torture in Afghan detention centres, but Government needs to do more, says UN report

Antitrust: Commission opens investigation into Broadcom and sends Statement of Objections seeking to impose interim measures in TV and modem chipsets markets

In tech-driven 21st century, achieving global development goals requires closing digital gender divide

Is history a new NATO weapons against Russia?

Why medical students decide to study abroad?

UN welcomes ‘record’ Brussels conference pledge of nearly $7 billion to support Syrians

Commission paralysed before the banking leviathan

Portugal can use its economic recovery to build up resilience

Most US students aren’t learning about climate change. Parents and teachers think they should

Statelessness for terrorists’ families, never an acceptable option, urges UN rights chief

Resiliency is the key to strong investments in a chaotic world

Main results of EU Environment Council, 25/06/2018

Keep Africa’s guns ‘from firing in the first place’, UN political chief urges

EU crisis aggravates structural differences, threatens cohesion

Another 170 migrants disappear in shipwrecks, UN agency reiterates call for an end to Mediterranean tragedy

Funding boost for sustainable development data agreed at UN conference

Generation Z will outnumber Millennials by 2019

Uganda’s Ebola preparedness ‘will go a long way’ says WHO chief

6 ways China and the United States could jumpstart trade reforms

JADE Handover Ceremony at the European Parliement

These patients are sharing their data to improve healthcare standards

You will be eating replacement meats within 20 years. Here’s why

Trump rejects Europe’s offer for zero car tariffs; he had personally tabled that idea in July

Let your fingers do the walking

Resisting EU budget cuts

Mexico must increase foreign bribery enforcement: full implementation of anti-corruption reforms could help

“A Junior Enterprise is run only by students.. there are no professors or managers that can help you solve your problems”

5 facts to know about Africa’s powerhouse – Nigeria

‘The clock is ticking’ on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, says UN deputy chief

GSMA announces new keynote speakers for 2018 Mobile World Congress

38th ACP-EU Assembly: dialogue on cooperation challenges in Kigali

Only one in five countries has a healthcare strategy to deal with climate change

Rights experts call for greater protection of indigenous people during migration

G20 LIVE: “Re-envisioning the economy to enable women to reach their full potential” live from Antalya Turkey

South Africa’s economy in 5 charts

Robot inventors are on the rise. But are they welcomed by the patent system?

Crime and drugs in West and Central Africa: Security Council highlights ‘new alarming trends’

This man is turning cities into giant sponges to save lives

GSMA Mobile 360 – Africa on 16-18 July 2019, in association with The European Sting

IMF: The near-term outlook for the U.S. economy is one of strong growth and job creation

The opportunity of studying Medicine abroad

Inclusion, empowerment and equality, must be ‘at the heart of our efforts’ to ensure sustainable development, says UN chief

France asks help from Germany but it will not be for free

‘A trusted voice’ for social justice: Guterres celebrates 100 years of the International Labour Organization

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s