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2018 Global Status Report – Towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector

The Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, in partnership with UN Environment and the International Energy Agency released the 2018 Global Status Report – Towards a Zero-Emission, Efficient and Resilient Buildings and Construction Sector during COP24 in Katowice, Poland. The report is a global snapshot on the status of the building and construction sector, released annually to track the progress of this sector which is critical to the success of the Paris Agreement and limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

Massive, untapped opportunities to address climate change, increase prosperity and clean up our air are standing right in front of us. Buildings and construction contribute close to 40% of the emissions causing climate change.

Every week, an area of floor space the size of Paris is constructed, often locking in high emission infrastructure that will be with us for decades to come. Over the next 15 years around $95 trillion of investments will be needed in infrastructure.  In addition, 70% of the infrastructure needed by 2050 is yet to be built—a worldwide revision upwards of building codes and related measures within national climate plans can unleash innovation, implementation, exponential improvements and a far more sustainable future.

Key messages from the report include:

  • Energy efficiency investment in buildings slows

The new report highlights an emerging gap between total energy efficiency spending – which increased by just over four per cent in 2017 to USD 423 billion – versus rapidly growing total investment in building construction and renovations. This indicates a slow-down in the rate of energy efficiency investment as a share of total investment when compared to previous growth rates.

  • An Emerging Challenge—Cooling Buildings

The report flies a red flag over the sharply rising energy demand for cooling systems and air conditioners. Energy use for ‘space cooling’ has already increased 25 per cent since 2010 and there are now more than 1.6 billion air conditioning units in buildings globally.

  • The Power of National Climate Action Plans (NDCs)

The scaling-up of national climate action plans—known as Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs)— represents a key opportunity to address a wide range of issues, by addressing policy gaps and unleashing a more committed decarbonisation of the buildings and construction sector.

  • Resilient Buildings – Needed to be Better Prepared

According to the report, building standards need to evolve to reflect the urgency for more resilient buildings in the face of climate change and extreme events like storms, floods, high wind speeds and soaring temperatures.