WBA & CDP: Building Sector Dangerously Behind on Climate Progress

Skyrise buildings progress

(Credit: Canva)

by | Apr 4, 2023

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Skyrise buildings progress

(Credit: Canva)

The building sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for approximately 40% of global emissions. In light of the pressing need to address climate change, the new Buildings Benchmark by CDP and the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) reveals that the sector is dangerously behind on climate progress and planning for net-zero.

A previously released report, “Building the Future: How the Building Sector Can Transition to Net-Zero Emissions,” surveyed over 16,000 buildings across 128 countries, representing a combined floor space of over 1.2 billion square meters. Surprisingly, the results showed that only 10% of buildings are currently on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting global warming to below 1.5° Celsius. The evaluation employs the Assessing Low-Carbon Transition (ACT) framework, which leverages sophisticated, science-based metrics to benchmark corporations and propels climate action.

What Exactly is Impacting Progress?

Based on the data from over 50 companies, the Buildings Benchmark found that the biggest barrier to progress is a lack of clear targets and policies.

Out of the 32 corporations with substantial construction or development activities, a mere five (16%) – Ayala, Gecina, Hyundai E&C, Lendlease, and Prologis – have a net-zero target that encompasses the in-use emissions of delivered structures. Nevertheless, none of them have a concrete plan of action outlining how they will deliver buildings that are solely zero-carbon-ready by their target year.

Gecina stands alone as the only corporation with a goal to deliver zero-carbon-ready buildings that align with the International Energy Agency‘s (IEA) net-zero scenario requirement, which mandates that all new structures delivered from 2030 onwards must be zero-carbon-ready. At present, only two companies, Gecina and LEG Immobilien, are developing zero-carbon-ready buildings in their property development operations.

Vicky Sins, Decarbonisation and Energy Transformation Lead said:

“Building companies don’t have low carbon strategies in place, but neither are they thinking about people. Only a few companies within the Buildings Benchmark are engaged with topics that are necessary for a just transition. The lack of plans and action by companies could risk the success of the low-carbon transition and could lead to increased inequality, mass unemployment and civil unrest.”

Recommendations Moving Forward

The analysis conducted by WBA and CDP reveals that the building sector’s current decisions have the potential to lock in emissions for decades, given the longevity of buildings. If companies make the wrong choices today in terms of design, construction, and renovation, it will hinder their ability to decarbonize at the necessary speed and scale to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Subsequently, the construction processes and energy efficiency of new buildings play a pivotal role in reducing emissions in the sector. Unfortunately, far too many companies continue to use unsustainable materials and construct buildings that either rely on fossil fuels or consume unnecessarily high levels of energy, thereby perpetuating a cycle of high emissions.

To mitigate this issue, WBA and CDP urge all building companies to prioritize developing zero-carbon-ready buildings that can effectively reduce emissions, rather than building inadequate ones that will need renovation or even a complete rebuild. Additionally, the sector must prioritize retrofitting and renovating older buildings to minimize their environmental impact.

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