‘Paris Agreement-proof’ buildings urgently needed to cut emissions

The technologies required to cut building emissions are available now, but the building sector is not taking up those solutions as fast as it could, according to the latest Climate Action Tracker from science and policy institute Climate Analytics.

Its analysis of the building sector — Constructing the Future: Will the building Sector Use its Decarbonisation Tools? — looks at how emissions can be reduced to keep global warming within the Paris Agreement’s temperature limit.

According to the analysis, the building sector currently accounts for around 20% of climate-changing emissions. Under current policies, energy demand from the building sector is expected to be 50% higher in 2050 compared with 2010.

A scenario where new buildings are zero-energy by 2020 in OECD countries, and by 2025 in non-OECD countries, combined with deep renovation rates of 5% and 3% per year respectively, could bring the building sector onto a pathway consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

However, for this to be achieved, emissions from the building sector need to be phased out within the next few decades.

Every new building that is not “Paris Agreement-proof” in its construction will lead to a further “lock-in” of emissions, and will require future renovation.

What’s more, existing renovation efforts in developed regions such as the European Union are currently “too slow and too shallow”, Climate Analytics argued.

“We have to start building ‘Paris Agreement-proof’ buildings today,” said Karlien Wouters from Ecofys. “Given the long lifetimes of buildings, rapid action is especially important in this sector. Any inefficient buildings we construct today will have to be renovated at greater cost later, adding to the challenge we’re already facing in renovating the majority of the existing building stock.”

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