On Wednesday, November 9, 2022, a report by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) pointed to a worrying post-Covid trend for the construction industry: the sector's CO2 emissions increased last year, to surpass their pre-pandemic level. Zoom.
The 2022 Global Buildings and Construction Report — Global Buildings Climate Tracker — was released on day four of COP27 in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt , Wednesday, November 9. This is a document provided annually by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (entity created in 2015 on the occasion of COP21 in Paris, under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Program – UNEP), making a detailed inventory of the construction industry in the world with regard to the objectives of reducing GHG emissions provided for in the Paris Agreements, to then issue a decarbonization roadmap for the sector accordingly.
In 2021, construction pollutes more and consumes more
It is clear that the 2022 version of the report is not laughable. At a time when the climate emergency is underlined from all sides, buildings do not appear to be good students. Indeed, one of the main data that can be found in the GlobalABC document is the following: in 2021, CO2 emissions from the construction industry increased by 5% compared to 2020… And by 2% compared to to 2019 . As for the sector's energy demand, it for its part experienced an increase of 4% compared to 2020, and 3% compared to 2019. The pandemic truce will therefore only have been of short duration, and would even seem to have left place for a disturbing rebound effect.
Many other indicators provided by the document follow the same trend, which can be summarized as follows: in 2021, buildings pollute more and consume more.
The importance of materials
The GlobalABC document tells us that the materials used for the construction of infrastructures represent approximately 9% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. On the other hand, the report predicts that the use of raw materials such as steel or concrete, which are highly GHG emitters, should double by 2060. It therefore seems essential to intensify the use of less pollutants such as biobased materials .
Balance sheet? Last year, the building and construction sector accounted for around 37% of CO2 emissions , more than 34% of global energy demand, and 40% of energy demand in Europe.
What does the report recommend?
Logically, in its publication, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction pleads for an intensification of efforts to move towards the decarbonization of the sector, through “political, regulatory actions” and “continuous investments” . The entity points in particular to the fact that only 26% of countries in the world currently have codes and obligations for the entire building sector. Encouragingly, however, investments in building energy efficiency increased by 16% in 2021 to an all-time high of around $237 billion.
A positive figure, however, to be qualified, because the expenditure in question is unequal across the globe , and mainly carried out by the most developed countries (European Union, United States, Canada and Japan). Indeed, a main challenge remains to move towards zero emissions for the construction sector, and represents one of the key discussions of the COP27 currently in Egypt : the role of the countries of the South, and more precisely the means given to them or not to participate in the collective effort.
However, the stakes are high: we learn in the document of the Global Alliance for Buildings that 70% of the African building stock must still be built by 2040, and that the sector should grow at an annual rate of 6 4% on the continent by 2024. Finally, it should be noted that many territories in Africa are full of renewable energy resources: nearly half of the total technological potential of renewable energies would be found there according to the report.
It is therefore obvious: the future of buildings and the evolution of their impact on the climate will depend on each nation and not only on some of them. It remains to wait for the conclusions of the 2022 Sharm el-Sheikh Conference on climate change, which will end on November 18th... With new solutions at stake?
For more details, find the full report on the global situation of buildings and construction in 2022 .
Article written by Amandine Martinet for Construction21