Solutions to help tackle the climate crisis

Proactively sharing solutions throughout the built environment sector as well as government bodies across the globe will help to tackle the climate crisis

Buildings are responsible for almost 40% of energy-related carbon emissions worldwide, and for 50% of all extracted materials. By 2050, 1.6 billion urban dwellers will be regularly exposed to extremely high temperatures, and more than 800 million people living in more than 570 cities will be vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal flooding.

The world’s building stock will double and almost 70% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas by the middle of the century. By 2060, global material use is expected to more than double – and a third of this rise will be attributable to materials used in building and construction. The built environment’s demand on natural resources accelerates climate change, while inefficient and poorly constructed buildings harm human health and wellbeing. However, efficient buildings are one of the biggest projected investment opportunities, worth an estimated $24.7tn by 2030.

Despite this, less than $3 of every $100 spent on new construction goes to efficient buildings. Of the 186 countries that have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 136 mention buildings, 53 mention building energy efficiency, and 38 specifically mention building energy codes. However, most countries do not include full building decarbonisation targets; and certain areas, such as building materials, are under-addressed.

To remedy this, the #BuildingToCOP26 coalition – led by C40, the Global Alliance for Building and Construction (GlobalABC), The Resilience Shift, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the World Green Building Council – has been formed. It represents a radical collaboration to promote solutions and policy pathways across business, cities and governments.

Decarbonisation targets

The coalition aims to achieve three specific outcomes for the COP26 UN climate change conference (which takes place in Glasgow in November) and beyond:

  1. The built environment should halve its emissions by 2030, with all new buildings emitting net-zero carbon in operation and widespread energy efficiency retrofits of existing assets well under way. Meanwhile, embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40%, with leading projects achieving at least 50%.

    All new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole lifecycle – including operational and embodied emissions – by 2050 at the latest, according to the UNFCCC Human Settlements Pathway. In parallel, building resilience into the transformation of the built environment, as set out in the UNFCCC Resilience Pathway, will be critical to support urban populations and vulnerable communities in the face of future climate impacts.

  2. All countries are encouraged to include full building sector decarbonisation targets in their NDCs as well as concrete policies and measures and their related implementation mechanisms. GlobalABC is working with its country members and beyond on Buildings as Critical Climate Solution, a commitment at a national level that will advance building sector measures and thereby create an appropriate enabling environment towards a zero-emission, efficient and resilient building and construction system. To learn more about how countries can incorporate action on buildings in their NDCs, visit

  3. Ensure 1,000 cities and at least 20% of the largest built environment businesses by revenue are committed to the UN’s Race to Zero. Businesses and sub-national local governments are also urged to join the Race to Zero and the Race to Resilience as major policy enablers and owners of real estate who can go further, faster.

With focus and collaboration, the goal of halving the building sector’s emissions by 2030 is possible. The coalition invites stakeholders across the built environment to join them to win the race to built environments, regions and cities that are zero-emissions and resilient.

Find out more at

Image credit | iStock




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