The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) today called on the global construction industry to cut emissions from the construction and operation of buildings by half before 2030 and to reach net zero life-cycle emissions for all buildings no later than 2050.
It said an “unprecedented shift” was needed in the way buildings are designed, built, renovated and re-used in order to keep global heating below 1.5°C as outlined in the Paris Agreement.
The built environment is responsible for almost 40% of global carbon emissions, with 10% of that arising from embodied carbon from materials and construction processes.
From 1 January 2023, businesses and organisations who have signed up to the council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment will be required to account for all operational carbon emissions in all building assets within their direct control.
They will also have to account for the whole-lifecycle impact of new buildings and major renovations, mandating that they are built to be highly efficient, powered by renewables, with maximum reductions in embodied carbon and compensation of all residual upfront emissions. This includes choosing low carbon materials and cutting fossil fuels from the construction process.
Signatories will have to develop their own decarbonisation roadmap.
WorldGBC expects organisations to keep using offsetting approaches until alternatives to fossil fuel consumption and high-embodied carbon materials emerge, but wants this to reduce over time.
Cristina Gamboa, chief executive of the World Green Building Council, said the new commitment “elevates the ambition for the building and construction sector to go further and faster to decarbonise”.
“Achieving our vision of sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere means acting now to tackle upfront carbon, whilst planning with whole life carbon in mind,” she said.
Alberto Carrillo Pineda, managing director of the Science Based Targets initiative, said: “Bold action is vital to limit the worst effects of climate breakdown and that’s why the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment from the WorldGBC is so important. This leadership sets the direction for the building and construction industry. Considering the state of the climate emergency, we are calling on all world leaders, businesses and individuals to take urgent action to decarbonise the built environment at the pace and scale required by science.”
The Commitment now has 143 signatories, with 109 businesses and organisations, 28 cities and six states and regions.
Image: Tokyo skyline by Vincent Camacho/Unsplash