The World Green Building Council (WGBC) has warned that every building on the planet must achieve ‘net-zero carbon’ by 2050 to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius, the limit enshrined in the Paris Agreement.

The building sector – responsible for 30 percent of global emissions, roughly equivalent to that of China – has a tough challenge ahead to meet the Paris Agreement targets.

According to a new report released by WGBC, titled ‘From Thousands to Billions - Coordinated Action towards 100% Net Zero Carbon Buildings By 2050’, less than one percent of all buildings worldwide can be classified as net-zero carbon buildings. Presently, there are only 500 net-zero commercial buildings and 2,000 net-zero homes around the globe.

Terri Wills, CEO of WGBC, says a dramatic and ambitious transformation from a world of thousands of net-zero buildings to one of billions is necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Only a commitment to aggressive action by businesses, governments and NGOs can help ensure every single building produces zero carbon emissions.

Net-zero buildings are defined as highly energy-efficient buildings that generate or supply the energy they need to operate from renewable sources to achieve a total of zero carbon emissions. The report from WGBC lays out specific actions that the private sector, governments and NGOs can take to ensure all new buildings operate at net-zero carbon by 2030 and that all existing buildings are renovated to operate at net-zero carbon by 2050.

The International Energy Agency estimates that the current global building stock is 223 billion square metres. It is predicted that this will almost double by 2050, to 415 billion square metres.

According to the Global Alliance for Building and Construction, current renovation rates amount to less than one percent of existing building stock each year. This figure has to increase by 3 percent each year to achieve universal net-zero carbon in the building sector by 2050.  

The full report can be accessed here.