CO2 emissions from the global building and construction sector have reached an all-time high of 10 gigatonnes in 2021, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said.
More than 34 percent of global energy demand in 2021 came from the building and construction sector, along with around 37 percent of energy and process-related CO2 emissions.
CO2 emissions from the building and construction sector in 2021 were five percent higher than in 2020 and two percent more than the pre-pandemic peak in 2019.
This was despite a 16 percent investment boost for energy-efficient new-builds, to $237 billion.
In 2021, demand for heating, cooling, lighting and equipment in buildings increased by around four per cent from 2020 and three per cent from 2019, UNEP said, indicating that the gap between the sector’s climate performance and the need to decarbonize by 2050 is widening.
“Steel, concrete and cement (are) already major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions,” the UN agency explained, adding that building materials already account for around nine per cent of energy-derived CO2 emissions on the continent.
On Europe, UNEP noted that the buildings sector accounted for 40 per cent of Europe’s total energy needs, and that 80 per cent of that came from fossil fuels. This makes the sector an area for immediate action, investment, and policies to promote short and long-term energy security.
To reduce overall emissions, the UN agency explained that the building sector could help by:
Improving building energy performance;
Decreasing the carbon footprint of building materials;
Multiplying policy commitments alongside action, particularly in light of rising fossil fuel costs linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the clear incentives of energy efficiency investment.
Key global trends identified by UNEP indicated that the increase in built floor space between 2015 and 2021 was equivalent to the total land area covered in buildings in in Germany, France, Italy and Netherlands.