Global construction boom hinders push to decarbonize by 2050: UN

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The global boom in building and construction has pushed the sector’s carbon emissions to an all-time high of 10 gigatons, highlighting that the industry is now “off track” to meet decarbonization pledges by 2050, the UN Environment Program (UNEP) said on Wednesday.

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“Years of warnings about the impacts of climate change have become a reality,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

“If we do not rapidly cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, we will be in deeper trouble.”

In 2021, more than 34 percent of global energy demand and 37 percent of “energy and process-related” CO2 emissions came from the building and construction sector, a UNEP report suggested.

Despite a 16 percent investment boost in energy-efficient new-builds of around $237 billion overall, the industry’s CO2 emissions in 2021 were five times higher than in 2020 and two percent higher than the pre-COVID peak in 2019, according to data published by the UNEP ahead of the COP27 climate conference in Egypt.

The UN agency explained that the hefty investments were unfortunately outpaced by the growing amount of floor space that is being built.

“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.

In 2021 alone, demand for cooling, heating, lighting and equipment in buildings rose to around 4 percent since 2020 and three percent since 2019, underlining the widening gap between the industry’s climate performance and the global need to decarbonize by 2050.

The UNEP’s findings come as world leaders, top-level decision makers, delegates and experts convene in the Egyptian coastal town of Sharm el-Sheikh for COP27 to discuss the most pressing concerns related to the global climate crisis.

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