A new report by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) presents a clear pathway of actions that will help the building and construction sector reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Released as part of the annual World Green Building Week 2019 taking place 23-29 September, the report ‘Bringing embodied carbon upfront’ presents WorldGBC’s new vision for how buildings and infrastructure around the world can reach 40 percent less embodied carbon emissions by 2030, and achieve 100 percent net zero emissions buildings by 2050.

The built environment has a critical role in mitigating the state of climate emergency facing the world today. Currently, the building and construction industry is responsible for 39 percent of all carbon emissions in the world, with energy consumed for building operations accounting for 28 percent. Embodied carbon emissions (also known as upfront carbon), associated with the manufacturing, transportation, construction and end of life phases of all built assets, contribute the remaining 11 percent.

WorldGBC’s vision to fully decarbonise the sector requires both operational and embodied carbon emissions to be eliminated.

WorldGBC’s call for coordinated action by all stakeholders in the building and construction sector to tackle embodied carbon is endorsed by representatives from developers and construction companies, financial institutions, city networks and government, as well as industry representatives from concrete, steel and timber among many more.

To ensure the global average temperature does not rise beyond 1.5°C, it is critical that drastic cuts are achieved in all types of carbon emissions including embodied carbon emissions, which have been overlooked in the past. Addressing upfront carbon is, therefore, crucial to fighting the climate crisis, as new construction is expected to double the world’s building stock by 2060, causing an increase in carbon emissions. The report’s urgent call to action is designed to bring the whole building and construction value chain together, thereby, dramatically changing the way buildings are designed, built, used and deconstructed.

Designers, investors, manufacturers, government, NGOs and researchers across the whole value chain can take action to accelerate decarbonisation, address current market barriers and develop low carbon alternative solutions for market. Maximising the use of existing assets, promoting renovation instead of demolition and seeking new circular business models that reduce reliance on carbon intensive raw materials are some of the approaches suggested; however, for change to happen, the industry needs to work together to enable market transformation.

To kick-start cross-sector collaboration, WorldGBC is calling for new national and sectoral roadmaps to be developed, such as those produced in Finland, Norway and Sweden, with strong support from industry and policymakers.

Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council says, “Our new report is a solution focused response to the urgent need to significantly reduce upfront emissions in building and construction and demand action across carbon intensive industries and materials. With the support of our global network and the endorsements we have received for the report, we are confident that we can stimulate market demand and facilitate radical whole value chain collaboration that will be truly transformative and benefit both people and planet.

“We will accelerate action to achieve our goal of slashing embodied carbon by 40 percent by 2030 and securing net zero embodied carbon by 2050, in addition to our net zero operational carbon goals.”