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Implications of IPCC report for built environment: urgency to scale existing solutions now for a liveable future

Today’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a ‘final reminder’ that the global community urgently needs to mobilise and scale available solutions to deliver a decarbonised, sustainable and resilient future for all global citizens. 

The Synthesis Report is the final instalment of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report and will become a fundamental policy document in the remainder of this key decade of climate action. Key findings from the report:

  • Extreme weather caused by climate breakdown has led to increased deaths from intensifying heatwaves in all regions, millions of lives and homes destroyed in droughts and floods, millions of people facing hunger
  • Loss and damage already being experienced now will continue into the future, hitting the most vulnerable people and ecosystems especially hard. Taking the right action now could result in the transformational change essential for a sustainable, equitable world 
  • Current government policies will see warming exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century and make it harder to limit warming below 2°C and there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity 
  • Emission reductions derived by improvements in energy and carbon intensity have been outpaced by emissions increases from rising global activity levels in industry, including the buildings sector

The findings of the report coincide with the year of the Global Stocktake, a process which offers global leaders a chance to reflect on the progress towards collective goals as determined via the Paris Agreement. Speaking after the release of the report WorldGBC CEO, Cristina Gamboa, said:

“The message from today’s report must shock global leaders into long overdue meaningful and impactful action on climate now. Any later is too late.

The report authors call for climate resilient development alongside locally appropriate solutions – as the most influential local-regional-global action network leading the transformation to sustainable built environments – we couldn’t agree more.

Building and construction is the largest contributing sector to the climate crisis. However, the potential of the built environment is yet to be fully leveraged to deliver the transformative change needed to decarbonise the global economy.

Our diverse network of 75+ Green Building Councils, driven by their local knowledge and expertise, stand ready to scale the solutions needed now to secure a 1.5°C limit to global warming.”

Buildings and the Climate Crisis

Worldwide, buildings are responsible for 37% of global carbon emissions and 34% of energy demand. Other environmental impacts of buildings include resource depletion, air, water and land pollution and biodiversity loss.

With such a significant impact, leaders and policymakers must recognise the built environment as a key agent of change that can close the gap to 1.5°C. Today’s report states that demand side measures can reduce emissions in the buildings sector by up to 66% by 2050 compared to baseline scenarios. 

The report also cites the importance of urban systems for achieving deep emissions reductions, acknowledging the role of efficient design, construction, retrofit, reducing material consumption; sufficiency, material substitution and electrification in combination with low emissions sources.

Although the findings are startling, the report does end on a note of hope, citing with high confidence that deep, rapid and sustained mitigation and  adaptation actions in this decade would reduce projected losses and damages for humans and ecosystems.

And our sector has a key role to play, as the report author states that the solution lies in climate resilient development that integrates mitigation and adaptation measures whilst enjoying the wider benefits this brings — something that the built environment is well placed to deliver. 

To be effective these solutions need to be rooted in our diverse values and local knowledge that will facilitate climate resilient development and allow locally appropriate, socially acceptable solutions.  With a global network of 75+ Green Building Councils representing 36,000 organisations globally, WorldGBC is ready to deliver these solutions.

Read the IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report

Read our response to the Global Stocktake