A new report by the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC) has revealed that the building and construction sector’s energy consumption and carbon emissions have rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic to an all-time high – despite an increase in energy efficiency investment and lower energy intensity.

The 2022 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction report, released at the COP27 climate meeting taking place in Egypt, stated that investments in building energy efficiency have gone up by unprecedented levels, rising by 16% in 2021 over 2020 levels to $237bn (€238bn). However, emissions from buildings and construction have hit a new high, leaving the sector off track to decarbonise by 2050.

The building and construction sector accounted for over 34% of energy demand and around 37% of energy and process-related carbon emissions in 2021.

GlobalABC said the sector’s operational energy-related carbon emissions reached ten gigatonnes of CO₂ equivalent – 5% over 2020 levels and 2% over the pre-pandemic peak in 2019. In 2021, operational energy demand for heating, cooling, lighting and equipment in buildings increased by around 4% from 2020 and 3% from 2019.

According to GlobalABC, this means that the gap between the climate performance of the sector and the 2050 decarbonisation pathway is widening.

Decarbonising the buildings sector by 2050 is critical to delivering these cuts. To reduce overall emissions, the sector must improve building energy performance, decrease building materials’ carbon footprint, multiply policy commitments alongside action and increase investment in energy efficiency, the report stated.

The report also said investments in energy efficiency must be sustained in the face of growing crises – such as the conflict in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, and the cost-of-living crisis – to reduce energy demand, avoid CO₂ emissions and dampen energy cost volatility.

Inger Andersen, an executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “Years of warnings about the impacts of climate change have become a reality. If we do not rapidly cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement, we will be in deeper trouble.

“The buildings sector represents 40% of Europe’s energy demand, 80% of it from fossil fuels. This makes the sector an area for immediate action, investment, and policies to promote short and long-term energy security”

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