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Climate action: Innovations from states and regions boosting energy efficiency in buildings

The Under2 Coalition is a leading coalition of more than 200 sub-national governments committed to supporting delivery of the Paris Agreement and keeping global temperature rise to below 2°C. As Secretariat to the Under2 Coalition, The Climate Group supports policy innovation and knowledge sharing between members.

Leah Good, Manager of The Climate Group’s Energy Transition Platform, looks at the crucial role regional governments have to play in driving down emissions in the buildings sector.

The global challenge to transform the built environment is huge. Recent figures from UN Environment show that buildings and construction account for 40% of global CO2 emissions, and to meet the ambition set out in the Paris Agreement, energy intensity per square metre of the global buildings sector needs to improve by 30% by 2030 (compared to 2015).

The Paris targets were set and agreed by national governments, but much of the work to drive this transformation is happening at the sub-national level.  State and regional governments are central players in driving down emissions from the buildings sector, and the good news is that many of them are already getting the job done.

In 2017, there was an 80% increase in climate actions reported by the state and regional governments that disclose their climate data to CDP in partnership with the Climate Group. One of the top reported actions was awareness building on energy efficiency / clean energy programmes and installing energy efficient lighting systems. 

Many of these governments, like the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, are collaborating with other regions to share and learn from each other’s actions. North Rhine-Westphalia is the lead partner government of The Climate Group’s Energy Transition Platform, a global policy forum supported by Stiftung Mercator, which brings together 11 highly industrialised states and regions to share innovative solutions to common challenges.

With the support of our knowledge partner, the Grantham Institute, we have tracked the challenges these governments are facing and the innovative solutions they have developed to drive down emissions from the building sector, which include:

  • Ambitious targets: The Government of California has established a mandate for all new residential buildings to be Zero Net Energy by 2020, and nonresidential buildings by 2030.
  • Tailored solutions: The Government of Alberta have a variety of offers to meet residents’ needs, from tax rebates on energy efficient products to targeted home visits by energy efficiency experts to help Albertans identify appropriate upgrades in their homes, a scheme which has seen interest from 140,000 households in only 2 months.
  • Collaboration: North Rhine-Westphalia’s ALTBAUNEU programme (or ‘old house new’) created a network of 36 energy professionals, municipalities and counties to facilitate the exchange of information and the collaborative development of measures to realise energy improvement actions.
  • Leading by example: The Government of Lombardy is focusing on driving energy efficiency reforms through the public building stock through by supporting energy savings in public offices and schools across the region.
  • Tackling fuel poverty: The Welsh Government introduced the Warm Homes Wales Programme to support low-income households in the most deprived areas of Wales. Since 2011, a total of £217 million has been dedicated to improve the energy efficiency of 85,000 homes. By using local supply chains, the scheme also boosts economic and job opportunities for local residents.

We explore these solutions, and many others, in more detail in the Energy Transition Platform’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings policy briefing. The briefing is particularly useful for state and regional governments looking for ways to drive down emissions in buildings, as it sets down lessons learnt and recommendations for governments considering similar programmes. While the policy briefing is specific to these Energy Transition Platform-member regions, the concepts can be modelled and scaled up by ambitious and innovative governments around the world.

Ambitious state and regional governments around the world are encouraged to explore the Energy Transition Platform and the work of the Under2 Coalition. Subnational governments from all over the world are joining us to accelerate the energy transition globally, as we drive net-zero ambition and action across every level of government.

Leah Good is Manager of The Climate Group’s Energy Transition Platform. To find out more about the Energy Transition Platform, click here.

To find out more about the Under2 Coalition, visit