The built environment sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, responsible for at least 37 per cent of the global emissions. Yet it has received only a small fraction of climate-focused development funding, compared to other sectors. Until now, most of the progress in the sector has been made on reducing the “operational carbon” of a building – the emissions created from heating, cooling and lighting, which are projected to decrease from 75 per cent to 50 per cent of the sector in the next few decades. However, solutions for reducing the “embodied” carbon emissions from the design, production and deployment of building materials such as cement, steel, and aluminium have lagged far behind.
This report, published by UN Environment Programme, highlights the urgent need to develop new models for cooperation on the decarbonisation of building materials, if the world is to reach its goals for net zero emissions from the built environment sector by the mid-century. Focusing on strategies to facilitate cooperation across the sector, the report details three essential processes: avoiding extraction by emphasizing circular economy approaches; shifting to regenerative materials like timber and sustainably-sourced bricks, and improving processes to decarbonize conventional materials like steel and aluminum.
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