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Johnson Controls joins World Business Council for Sustainable Development

GENEVA, Switzerland, 23 March 2022: Johnson Controls joined over 200 companies as the newest member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Making the announcement through a Press release, Johnson Controls said it continues to take significant steps to further improve its environmental impact and has committed to achieving net zero Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the Paris Climate Agreement goal. By 2030, the company said, it aims to cut its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 55% and reduce Scope 3 emissions by 16%. These ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative, it added.

Johnson Controls said it also recently became the first S&P500 industrial company to release an Integrated Sustainable Finance Framework as well as issue a Sustainability-Linked Bond. This, it said, builds on its green finance initiative, following its prior green bond issuance and the linking of its senior credit facility to sustainability metrics. As part of its Integrated Sustainable Finance Framework, Johnson Controls said, it further committed to achieving interim absolute emission reduction targets by 2025.

Johnson Controls said it is a member of both the WBCSD decarbonization and circular economy working groups for the Built Environment. With an integrated focus on designing buildings with low to no carbon, standardizing measurement across the industry and delivering nature-positive solutions, the two working groups are on the forefront of designing the future of sustainable, equitable cities, it said.

“We are delighted to join WBCSD”, said Katie McGinty, Vice President and Chief Sustainability and External Relations Officer, Johnson Controls. “The building sector accounts for nearly 40% of global annual CO2 emissions, so there is no tackling climate change without substantial investment in buildings. We look forward to working with, and learning from, fellow WBCSD members, leading the way to a low carbon, nature positive, sustainable economy, together.”

Peter Bakker, President and CEO, WBCSD, said: “WBCSD is working to accelerate the system transformations needed for a net-zero, nature-positive, and more equitable future. To achieve our vision of creating a world in which nine+ billion people are living well, within planetary boundaries, by mid-century, we need to engage executives and sustainability leaders in business. Therefore, I am delighted to welcome Johnson Controls as the newest member of WBCSD. As a global leader in the built environment sector, with an ambitious goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, we are excited to work alongside Johnson Controls to solve the intertwined sustainability challenges of the climate emergency, biodiversity loss, and mounting inequality.”

UNIDO, European Investment Bank sign climate change joint declaration

LUXEMBOURG, 23 March 2022: Gerd Müller, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), signed a Joint Declaration to enhance cooperation, related to investment operations in the field of private sector development, with a particular focus on inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and innovation and resilient infrastructure.

Making the announcement through a Press release EIB said joint areas of cooperation include circular economy, notably through the switch to Circular Economy Value Chains programme; clean energy and climate change action; small and medium enterprise development; access to finance and investment support; pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing; sustainable transport and e-mobility; and digitalisation and the fourth industrial revolution.

Müller told Hoyer: “We have a long-standing and excellent personal and professional relationship. I am very glad to strengthen the partnership between our two organizations to provide innovative and concrete solutions for a global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and a green energy transition. Together, we can build bridges between developing countries, emerging markets and European partner countries and foster global solidarity. This is urgently needed.”

Hoyer said: “Multilateral cooperation is vital to leverage private investment and make economies across the world resilient and sustainable. I am delighted to renew our collaboration with UNIDO, who is a key partner to promote an inclusive green transition globally. Via EIB Global, our new branch for international development and partnerships, we will join forces to reduce poverty and enhance investment in sustainable infrastructure. I look forward to continuing our long and fruitful cooperation in your new role as Director General of UNIDO.”

According to EIB, the two institutions intend to explore cooperation opportunities, especially in Africa, in the countries of UNIDO’s Programme for Country Partnership (PCP), as well as in the context of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, where the EIB is particularly active. Other possible geographical areas could include Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Asia and Latin America, where both institutions already operate.

EIB said UNIDO and the EIB also agreed to develop and implement crisis- and fast-response operations when needed, such as COVID-19 support initiatives or activities to ensure resilient industrial production and sustainable economic growth.

UN: Pandemic causes dip in building emissions

NAIROBI, Kenya, 19 October 2021: The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic caused CO2 emissions from buildings and construction to fall significantly in 2020, but a lack of real transformation in the sector means that emissions will keep rising and contribute to dangerous climate change, according to the 2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction.

The report, published by the UN Environment Programme-hosted Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), finds that in 2020, the sector accounted for 36% of global final energy consumption and 37% of energy related CO2 emissions, as compared to other end-use sectors.

While the level of emissions within the sector are 10% lower than in 2015, reaching lows not seen since 2007, this w333as largely due to lockdowns, slowing of economies, difficulties households and businesses faced in maintaining and affording energy access and a fall in construction activity. Efforts to decarbonize the sector played only a small role, the authors of the report said.

With large growth projected in the buildings sector, emissions are set to rise if there is no effort to decarbonize buildings and improve their energy efficiency, the authors said. In Asia and Africa, building stock is expected to double by 2050, they said, adding that global material use is expected to more than double by 2060, with a third of this rise attributable to construction materials.

“This year showed that climate change is an immediate direct threat to every community on this planet, and it is only going to intensify,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP. “The buildings and construction sector, as a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, must urgently be decarbonized through a triple strategy of reducing energy demand, decarbonizing the power supply and addressing building materials’ carbon footprint, if we are to have any chance of meeting the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C.”

Some progress, but not enough

The GlobalABC’s Global Buildings Climate Tracker found that there have been some incremental improvements in action to decarbonize and improve the energy efficiency of the sector.

In 2015, 90 countries included actions for addressing buildings emissions or improving energy efficiency in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. This number has now hit 136, although ambition varie, the authors of the report said.

Since 2015, an additional 18 countries have put in place building energy codes – a move that is crucial to shift emissions downwards – bringing the total to 80, the authors said. Local cities and governments have also developed codes, they said. Investment in energy efficiency rose to over USD 180 billion in 2020, up from 129 billion in 2015. Green building certification has increased by 13.9% compared to 2019, they said.

Overall, however, the report finds that these efforts are insufficient, both in terms of speed and scale. Other key findings of the report include: Two-thirds of countries still lack mandatory buildings codes; most of the increase in energy efficiency spending came from a small number of European countries; too small a share of finance goes into deep energy retrofits, and there is a lack of ambitious decarbonization targets in NDCs.

What comes next?

Energy demand in the buildings and construction sector is likely to rebound, as economic recovery efforts take hold and as pent-up demands for new construction are realized, the authors said.

By 2030, to be on track to achieving a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, the International Energy Agency says that direct building CO2 emissions would need to decrease by 50%. Indirect building sector emissions will have to drop through a reduction of 60% in power generation emissions. To achieve these goals, the report finds, the sector has to take advantage of every lever.

While pandemic recovery spending has not sufficiently prioritized climate-friendly approaches to the level required, the authors said, there is still an opportunity to invest in decarbonizing our buildings while increasing their resilience:

  • Countries need to harness the sector’s transformative potential for achieving the energy transition.
  • Governments need to commit to further decarbonizing the power, as well as heating and cooling energy supply. This includes stepping up ambition in NDCs to include building decarbonization targets that contain the so-far largely overlooked embodied carbon and the emissions from the production of building materials.
  • The rate of growth of investment in building efficiency needs to double to over 3 per cent per year, and must expand beyond direct government investment to private investors.
  • Scope and coverage of building energy codes need to increase. All countries need to have in place mandatory building energy codes, and these would ideally address performance standards for building envelopes, design, heating, cooling, ventilation systems and appliances, and ensure links with integrated urban planning.

Buildings’ resilience needs to increase to futureproof our homes and workspaces. A typical building constructed today will still be in use in 2070, but the climate it encounters will have changed significantly.

  • The necessary interventions to reduce the climate impact of existing buildings should be combined with investing in adaptation and resilience measures.
  • In addition, both public and private sector need to seize the tremendous investment opportunities this sector offers – for example, through green bonds or through banks increasing green building construction and mortgage finance.

Johnson Controls issues USD 500 mn sustainability-linked bond

CORK, Ireland, 16 September 2021: Johnson Controls (JCI) said it has issued its first Sustainability-Linked Bond offering of USD 500 million in 10-year senior notes. The offering of the bond, the company said through a Press release, is in conformity with the company’s recently published integrated green, social and sustainability-linked finance framework. The publication of the framework and issuance of a bond mark two new sustainability milestones for Johnson Controls, which has become the first S&P500 industrial company to complete both accomplishments, it said.

Earlier, in January 2021, Johnson Controls adopted a new set of ambitious environmental goals, which it said, were approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative. The company said it has committed to cut operational emissions by 55% and reduce customers’ emissions by 16% before 2030. Based on the commitments, the company said, it issued the bond, which ties the interest rate on the bond to the achievement of the environmental goals. This means that Johnson Controls will pay a higher interest rate to bond investors if it fails to meet its interim targets for reducing Scope 1 + 2 and Scope 3 carbon emissions by September 16, 2025.

“Experts say that an additional USD 1-2 trillion/year must be invested in sustainability and cutting greenhouse gases if we are going to have any chance of meeting the steep carbon reductions science tells us is urgently required,” said George Oliver, Chairman and CEO, Johnson Controls. “Governments alone will not be able to mobilize this sum of money, so private sector capital needs to get sustainable, and fast. Building the market for sustainable finance is, therefore, an imperative; and ensuring that the highest standards are met so that dollars flow to projects that truly accelerate decarbonization, is also critical. With our continued commitment to sustainable finance and aggressive sustainability targets, we are showing our leadership in the field.”

OECD: Climate finance from developed to developing countries totalled USD 79.6 bn in 2019

PARIS, France, 17 September 2021: Climate finance provided and mobilised by developed countries for developing countries totalled USD 79.6 billion in 2019, up two per cent from 78.3 billion in 2018, according to new figures from the OECD.

The small increase was driven by a rise in public climate finance provided by multilateral institutions, while bilateral public climate finance commitments dropped, as did climate finance mobilised from private sources, OECD said through a Press release, issued for the purpose of sharing the new figures.  

Climate Finance Provided and Mobilised by Developed Countries: Aggregate trends updated with 2019 data is the OECD’s fourth assessment of progress towards the UNFCCC goal of mobilising USD 100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries tackle and adapt to climate change.

“Climate finance continued to grow in 2019, but developed countries remain USD 20 billion short of meeting the 2020 goal of mobilising USD 100 billion,” Mathias Cormann, OECD Secretary-General, said“The limited progress in overall climate finance volumes between 2018 and 2019 is disappointing, particularly ahead of COP26. While appropriately verified data for 2020 will not be available until early next year, it is clear that that climate finance will remain well short of its target. More needs to be done. We know that donor countries recognise this, with Canada and Germany now taking forward a delivery plan for mobilising the additional finance required to reach the USD 100bn a year goal.”

The report finds that public climate finance from developed countries reached USD 62.9 billion in 2019. Bilateral public climate finance accounted for USD 28.8 billion, down 10% from 2018, and multilateral public climate finance attributed to developed countries accounted for USD 34.1 billion, up by 15% from 2018, the report revealed. The level of private climate finance mobilised was down four per cent at USD 14.0 billion in 2019, after USD 14.6 billion in 2018. Climate-related export credits remained small at USD 2.6 billion, accounting for just three per cent of total climate finance, the report said.

The report also shows that out of the overall climate finance in 2019, 25% went to adaptation (up from 21% in 2018), 64% went to climate change mitigation activities (down from 70% in 2019), and the remainder to cross-cutting activities. More than half of total climate finance targeted economic infrastructure – mostly energy and transport – with most of the remainder going to agriculture and social infrastructure, notably water and sanitation, the report said.

Asia has been the main beneficiary of climate finance over 2016-19, with 43% of the total, on average, followed by Africa (26%) and the Americas (17%), the report said. Climate finance for Least Developed Countries rose strongly in 2019 (up 27% on 2018), but funding for Small Island Developing States fell back to 2017 levels (from USD 2.1 billion to 1.5 billion) after a temporary increase in 2018, the report pointed out.

The data confirm that SIDS face specific challenges in accessing climate finance. The international community needs to consider financing for climate that is appropriate for the challenges that SIDS face, less fragmented, easier to access, predictable and long-term, the report said.

Cormann said: “It is more urgent than ever that developed countries step up their efforts to deliver finance for climate action in developing countries, particularly to support poor and vulnerable countries to build resilience against the growing impacts of climate change.”

In terms of public finance instruments, public grant financing jumped by 30% from 2018 to reach USD 16.7 billion in 2019, after having remained stable the three previous years. In contrast, the volume of public loans, which had increased significantly up to 2018, fell by five per cent in 2019. As a result, the share of grants in overall public climate finance was 27% in 2019, while loans (both concessional and non-concessional) represented 71%.

Cooling to the Green Deal with natural CO2 refrigerant systems

WELSHPOOL, United Kingdom, 17 August 2021: Invertek Drives showcased its dedicated VFD, Optidrive Coolvert, for use on CO2 refrigeration display cases used in the retail sector. The company added that its Optidrive Eco operates on larger current refrigeration compressor racks and cold rooms.

Invertek make the announcement against the backdrop of the European Commission’s Green Deal, also referred to as Fit for 55, which sets out proposals to cut EU net greenhouse emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This could mean the current target of reducing fluorinated greenhouse gas (F-Gas) emissions by two-thirds by 2030, compared with 2014 levels, will be adjusted and tightened further.

The EU F-Gas Regulation brought a 44% reduction in the amount of available HFCs in the EU, compared to 2015. By 2030, the current regulation allows only 20% of HFCs being available, with stepped drops between then and now. This could change in the recast.

According to Invertek, the impact of both means there is a need to ramp up the use of natural refrigerants, such as CO2, in cooling and refrigeration systems. And this isn’t just in the EU but throughout the world as part of the existing Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, it said.

Variable frequency drives (VFDs), the company said, are playing an important role in reducing emissions and energy use in HVAC&R systems. Optidrive Coolvert, it said, is one of the smallest VFDs in its class providing OEMs with opportunities to reduce panel space and lower machine costs. It fits directly into refrigeration display cases alongside a CO2 compressor, it added.

This is in addition to end-user savings of up to 25% using CO2 refrigerant condensing systems, which it is specifically designed to work with, the company claimed. A combination of meeting EU F-Gas Regulations and cutting energy use is a significant benefit for the end-user as well as for the environment, it said.

Mike Carman, Head of Sales, Invertek Drives, said: “The recast of the F-Gas Regulation comes as the EU sets out its new and wider environmental ambitions through the Green Deal. It’s widely believed this is the precursor to a significant adjustment in the F-Gas Regulation timeframe.

“With either more cuts in the amount of HFCs available in the EU or increased limits on emissions, it’ll impact on the manufacturers and end-users of refrigeration and wider HVAC/R systems”

According to Invertek, the Optidrive Coolvert also has the widest ambient operating range of between -20 degrees C and +60 degrees C, making it ideal for use in a wide range of environments. It can be used for the control of CO2 ­­­­rotary or scroll, BLDC compressors used in supermarkets and convenience store display cases; heat pumps, and condensing units, the company said. This is in comparison to the Optidrive Eco VFD, which operates on larger-capacity semi-hermetic and screw compressors used in industrial and food retail refrigeration racks, and chillers, the company added.

According to Invertek, Coolvert is compatible with all motor types, including induction motors, permanent magnet motors, brushless DC motors, synchronous reluctance motors and Line Start PM motors ranging between Single Phase (Active PSE) 7A and 20A, and Three-Phase 14A to 24A (input of 200V to 480V).

Its open Modbus RS485 communication, the company said, ensures seamless connection to any external application controller, allowing the OEM freedom to select which components to use, which again helps lower manufacturing costs.

With an IP20-rated front and an IP55-rated rear, its panel mounting allows the drive’s power electronics to be cooled by the chilled air of the condenser, the company said, adding that this allows OEMs to select the smallest panel size for the control of the electronics, while removing heat generated by the drive and maintaining the IP rating.

AHRI Board approves decarbonization general position statement

ARLINGTON, Virginia, 18 May 2021: The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) on May 14 released a General Position Statement on Decarbonization, advancing the association as a resource for states and localities grappling with how to successfully, sustainably and affordably reduce emissions related to the built-environment.

AHRI revealed the paper as noting, “The air conditioning, heating, ventilation, refrigeration, and water heating industry has a long history of providing innovative, high-quality, energy-saving, affordable products that enhance the comfort, safety, health, and productivity of businesses and people around the world”. It expresses AHRI’s support for “the ongoing, science-based transition to a lower carbon society, in which consumer choices for heating, cooling, water heating, and commercial refrigeration are the most energy efficient, environmentally beneficial available anywhere in the world, while maintaining appropriate and adequate levels of safety, health, comfort, and affordability”.

Stephen Yurek, President & CEO, AHRI, said: “Our member companies – which have more than 100 years of experience and expertise in product solutions, technology, and innovation – can serve as a valuable resource in helping the nation achieve a lower carbon society.”

The statement, AHRI said, comes on the heels of the success of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, passed by Congress in 2020, which provides authority to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate the production of high-global warming potential hydrofluorocarbons and establishes a national phase down structure for the refrigerants that are widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. That effort, AHRI said, more than 10 years in the making for the industry, is forecast to ultimately result in a 0.5 degree reduction in global temperatures over the next 30 years, even as it creates jobs and helps the industry’s global trade posture.

Green Building Alliance, UN’s partners receive International Climate Initiative Award

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, 21 April 2021: Green Building Alliance (GBA) announced an international collaboration led by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to develop a USD 24 million project to improve the energy efficiency of the global building supply chain and its products to deliver high performance buildings. The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety awarded this project, signaling the advancement of a planning phase and full proposal. The launch of the project was announced on April 21 by Elisabeth Winkelmeier-Becker at the UNECE’s 69th Commission meeting.

According to GBS, the award solidifies the Greater Pittsburgh region as a global leader in the expeditious innovation of technologies, products and training aimed at curbing carbon emissions and creating healthy, sustainable buildings. The project presents an opportunity to work with international leaders in the field to identify solutions and strategies, and then implement best practices for the Pittsburgh region. GBA said the IKI award, in conjunction with Pittsburgh’s designation as a UN International Center of Excellence on High Performance Building, confirms GBA as a leader in providing solutions to improve the built environment thereby positively impacting climate change, human health, social equity, and a thriving economy.

“Funding high-performance buildings and retrofitting existing buildings can rapidly reinvigorate local economies, supporting or creating quality jobs through the entire building supply chain while delivering on long-term quality of life for everyone,” said Scott Foster, Director of Sustainable Energy, UNECE, about this innovative work. “Given its size and its history both as a coal-mining and steel-making center and as an example of urban rebirth, Pittsburgh has a lot to offer the cities of the world in terms of its experience and know-how.”

GBA said it is eager to begin the important work. “It is an honor to play such an important role in the US commitment to climate and infrastructure and the need to rapidly transform the building industry,” said Jenna Cramer, Executive Director, GBA. “We have an opportunity to build upon our 28-year history of making Pittsburgh and the Western Pennsylvania region a leadership hub for green buildings and sustainable products. This project is part of our efforts with the Greater Pittsburgh International Center of Excellence, a public private partnership that uniquely positions organizations, researchers, companies, and governments to collectively problem-solve for our region’s future while also connecting on a global platform to share best practices and advance solutions.”

According to GBA, the building and construction sector plays a key role in addressing global issues, including significant emissions reductions, improved energy security and increased circular economy. The sector is integral to achieving the Paris Agreement goals, as it is responsible for approximately 40% of energy- and process-related emissions. The project kick-off will take place in May 2021. Led by UNECE, other partners include UN Environment, UN Development Programme (UNDP) offices in select countries, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP), Passivhaus Institute (Germany), and the Technical University of Denmark. GBA is the only partner in the United States.

The Greater Pittsburgh Center of Excellence current partners include Allegheny County, City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, PJ Dick, Fourth Economy, Duquesne Light, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, Covestro, Partner4Work, Innovation Works, Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, other nonprofits, and professionals.

Buildings-related emissions hit record high: UN

 

NAIROBI, Kenya, 17 December 2020: Emissions from the operation of buildings hit their highest-ever level in 2019, moving the sector further away from fulfilling its huge potential to slow climate change and contribute significantly to the goals of the Paris Agreement, according to a new report released on December 16.

 However, pandemic recovery packages provide an opportunity to push deep building renovation and performance standards for newly constructed buildings, and rapidly cut emissions. The forthcoming updating of climate pledges under the Paris Agreement – known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs – also offer an opportunity to sharpen existing measures and include new commitments on the buildings and construction sector.

 The 2020 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction, from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), found that while global building energy consumption remained steady, year-on-year, energy-related CO2 emissions increased to 9.95 GtCO2 in 2019. This increase was due to a shift away from the direct use of coal, oil and traditional biomass towards electricity, which had a higher carbon content due to the high proportion of fossil fuels used in generation.

 When adding emissions from the building construction industry on top of operational emissions, the sector accounted for 38% of total global energy-related CO2 emissions.

 “Rising emissions in the buildings and construction sector emphasize the urgent need for a triple strategy to aggressively reduce energy demand in the built environment, decarbonize the power sector and implement materials strategies that reduce lifecycle carbon emissions,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “Green recovery packages can provide the spark that will get us moving rapidly in the right direction. Moving the buildings and construction sector onto a low-carbon pathway will slow climate change and deliver strong economic recovery benefits, so it should be a clear priority for all governments.”

 To get on track to net-zero-carbon building stock by 2050, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that direct building CO2 emissions need, by 2030, to fall by 50% and indirect building sector emissions by 60%. This equates to building sector emissions falling by around six per cent per year until 2030, close to the seven per cent decrease in 2020 global energy sector CO2 emissions due to the pandemic.

 Worryingly, the GlobalABC’s new Buildings Climate Tracker – which considers measures, such as incremental energy efficiency investment in buildings and the share of renewable energy in global buildings – finds that the rate of annual improvement is decreasing. It, in fact, halved between 2016 and 2019. To get the buildings sector on track to achieving net-zero-carbon by 2050, all actors across the buildings value chain need to increase decarbonization actions and their impact by a factor of five.

 Even though progress in efficiency efforts has not kept up with an increase in sectoral growth, there are positive signs and opportunities to catch up on climate action, the report finds.

 Green recovery potential

The recent Emissions Gap Report 2020 from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) found that a green pandemic recovery could cut up to 25% off predicted 2030 greenhouse gas emissions and bring the world closer to meeting the 2 degrees C goal of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change; much more needs to be done to get to the 1.5 degrees C goal, though.

 Governments can help achieve these gains by systematically including building decarbonization measures into recovery packages – increasing renovation rates, channelling investment into low-carbon buildings, providing jobs and increasing real estate value.

 While construction activities have dropped by 20-30% in 2020 compared to 2019 as a result of the pandemic and around 10% of overall jobs have been lost or are at risk across the building construction sector, stimulus programmes for the building and construction sector can create jobs, boost economic activity and activate local value chains. Under its Sustainable Recovery Plan, the IEA estimates that up to 30 jobs in manufacturing and construction would be created for every million dollars invested in retrofits or efficiency measures in new builds.

 “Buildings are a strategic sector to simultaneously address various global challenges, such as climate change, the economic crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, [and the need to] improve living conditions and the resilience of our cities. For Mexico, the implementation of mitigation measures that improve the thermal and energy performance of buildings is a key ingredient for sustainability,” said Sergio Israel Mendoza, General Director of Environmental, Urban and Tourism Promotion, Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT).

 NDC updates open window for faster action

Most countries have yet to submit their second NDCs. Buildings remain a major area that lacks specific mitigation policies, despite its importance to global CO2 emissions. Of those who have submitted an NDC, 136 countries mention buildings, 53 countries mention building energy efficiency, and only 38 specifically call out building energy codes.

 National governments must step up commitments in NDCs, longer-term climate strategies and support for regulation to spur uptake of net-zero-emissions buildings. This means prioritizing performance-based, mandatory building energy codes alongside widespread certification measures and working closely with sub-national governments to facilitate adoption and implementation.

 “We urgently need to address carbon emissions from buildings and construction, which constitute almost 40% of global carbon emissions,” said Nigel Topping, United Kingdom High-Level Climate Champion. “We must give governments visibility of this at COP26 to inspire policies and decisions that result in the significant decarbonisation of this sector. We need to challenge the incumbency of steel and concrete. Whether or not zero carbon steel and concrete become the materials of the future will depend on how fast those industries innovate in the face of new and disruptive technologies. We have some far-reaching commitments under the Science-Based Targets Initiative by leading materials companies, which can serve as examples pushing the industry to go further, together.”

 Energy-efficient building investment rising

In 2019, spending on energy-efficient buildings increased for the first time in three years, with building energy efficiency across global markets increasing to USD 152 billion in 2019, three per cent more than the previous year.

 This is only a small proportion of the USD 5.8 trillion spent in total in the building and construction sector, but there are positive signs across the investment sector that building decarbonization and energy efficiency are taking hold in investment strategies.

 For example, of the 1,005 real estate companies, developers, REITS, and funds representing more than USD 4.1 trillion in assets under management that reported to The Global ESG Benchmark for Real Assets in 2019, 90% aligned their projects with green building rating standards for construction and operations.

 Green buildings represent one of the biggest global investment opportunities of the next decade, estimated by the IFC to be USD 24.7 trillion by 2030.

 Further recommendations

Aside from calling for a green recovery, post-pandemic, and updated NDCs, the report recommends that owners and businesses use science-based targets to guide actions and engage with stakeholders across the building design, construction, operation and users to develop partnerships and build capacity. Investors should reevaluate all real estate investment through an energy-efficiency and carbon reduction lens.

 Other actors across the value chain should adopt circular economy concepts to reduce the demand for construction materials and lower embodied carbon and adopting nature-based solutions that enhance building resilience.

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