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Building sector emissions hit record high, but low-carbon pandemic recovery can help transform sector – UN report

06 January, 2021

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CREDS researcher Ian Hamilton was lead author on the recent Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction which reported that CO2 emissions increased to 9.95 GtCO2 in 2019 – a record high.

CREDS researcher Ian Hamilton was lead author on the recent Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction launched by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) and the UNEP in December 2020.

The report finds that while the total final energy consumption of the global buildings sector remained at the same level in 2019 compared to the previous year, CO2 emissions from the operation of buildings have increased to their highest level yet at around 10 GtCO2, or 28% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions. With the inclusion of emissions from the buildings construction industry, this share increases to 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions. The slightly lower proportion of buildings emissions compared with the 39% seen in 2018 was due to the increases in transport and other industry emissions relative to buildings.

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, decarbonise the power sector and implement materials strategies that reduce lifecycle carbon emissions

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,” she added. “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.”

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 6 per cent per year until 2030, close to the 7 per cent decrease in 2020 global energy sector CO2 emissions due to the pandemic.

The report can be accessed on the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction’s websiteOpens in a new tab

Banner photo credit: Chuttersnap on Unsplash

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