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Decarbonization – construction sector ‘off track’

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The global building and construction boom has pushed the sector’s carbon emissions to an all-time high of 10 gigatonnes, meaning that it is now “off track” to meet decarbonization pledges by 2050, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have said.

According to a report from the UN agency, more than 34 per cent of global energy demand in 2021 came from the sector, along with around 37 per cent of “energy and process-related” carbon emissions.

Data crunched for the publication ahead of COP27 climate talks in Egypt, also found that 2021 CO2 emissions were five per cent higher than in 2020 and two per cent more than the pre-pandemic peak in 2019.

In 2021, demand for heating, cooling, lighting and equipment in buildings increased by around four per cent from 2020 and three per cent from 2019, UNEP said, indicating that the gap between the sector’s climate performance and the need to decarbonize by 2050 is widening.

From a regional perspective, UNEP noted that Africa was set to see raw resource use, double by 2060, with “an estimated 70 per cent” of buildings for 2040 still on the drawing board.

This is in line with estimates that Africa’s population is set to reach 2.4 billion by 2050, 80 per cent living in cities, and the reason why the continent could make use of its renewable energy sources to power its buildings sustainably, UNEP said.

“Steel, concrete and cement (are) already major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” the UN agency explained, adding that building materials already account for around nine per cent of energy-derived CO2 emissions on the continent.

On Europe, UNEP noted that the buildings sector accounted for 40 per cent of Europe’s total energy needs, and that 80 per cent of that came from fossil fuels. “This makes the sector an area for immediate action, investment, and policies to promote short and long-term energy security,” Ms. Andersen said.


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