COP26 to Break Ground for Zero Carbon Buildings Future

Jay Owen Sustainability News, Resource Efficiency

By Christiana Hageneder, Head of the Programme for Energy Efficiency in Buildings (PEEB), and Martina Otto, Head of UNEP’s Cities Unit and GlobalABC Secretariat


In a few days, thousands of world leaders, CEOs, negotiators, activists and journalists will gather in Glasgow for COP26, which comes at a time of climate emergency.

When we think of the root causes of climate change, they are often represented by smoking exhaust pipes, cargo ships, planes, coal mines or oil fields; rarely by our own homes, offices, heating boilers and air-conditioners, or construction sites and cement plants.

Yet buildings are a top emitter of climate-changing gases into our atmosphere: 37 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020 came from the construction and operation of our buildings – houses, apartments, offices, hospitals, schools, markets, train stations or airports.

The buildings and construction sector must urgently be decarbonized through a triple strategy: Reducing energy demand, decarbonizing the power supply, and addressing embodied carbon stored in building materials, if we are to have any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C

According to the 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Constructions, which was released on 19 October 2021, the challenges to reaching a net zero, energy-efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector are considerable: GlobalABC’s Global Buildings Climate Tracker shows improvements in energy investment and power decarbonization, yet these efforts are insufficient, both in terms of speed and scale, to achieve the deep sectoral transformation that is needed.

Glasgow must mark a breakthrough for climate action in buildings.

The good news is that the world is waking up to the reality that the built environment is a critical sector for climate action. Six years after COP21 in Paris that put buildings on the agenda, 2021 features a Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day. Taking place on 11 November, it is spearheaded by a strong alliance of partners rallying under the #BuildingToCOP26 campaign, with support from the COP26 UK presidency and the High-Level Climate Champions.


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