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Race to Zero

This report is a product of radical collaboration, with 40+ organisations working on accelerating non-state actor climate action in support of the Paris Agreement, coming together to share findings, insights and perspectives. It presents an overview of the current landscape across the voluntary climate leadership initiatives, and emerging standards and regulations, and offers insights on how to dramatically accelerate from voluntary action to the adequate standards, policies and regulations needed to deliver climate action at scale and achieve the mitigation goal of the Paris Agreement - recognising the different circumstances, capacities and needs of different countries. It explores some appropriate enabling environments and outlines the wide array of tools available, and highlights key questions to address hereon, providing a thought-piece for dialogue and consideration. Most importantly, it actively calls - indeed urges - non-state actors to (a) join the Race to Zero; (b) dramatically ratchet their policy engagement in line with this report; and (c) urges them to help inform, shape and drive the needed standards, legislation and regulation to get the world back on track to a 1.5C-aligned pathway to achieve a resilient, just net zero world.

2022-09-20 | Federico Bellone (CCT), Jose Bermudez Menendez (IEA), Herib Blanco (IRENA), Sophie Boehm (CCT), Emily Cassidy (CCT), Kelly Carlin (CCT), Nicolas Coent (IRENA), Edward Davey (CCT), Gerardo Escamilla (IRENA), Rachel Fakhry (CCT), Angie Farrag-Thibault (CCT)
International Energy Agency (IEA), International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and UN Climate Change High-Level Champions

The Breakthrough Agenda Report 2022 is a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions, focused on supporting stronger international collaboration to drive faster reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. Without international cooperation, the crucial global transition to net zero emissions could be delayed by decades. The faster the transition advances, the faster it will deliver clean technologies at lower cost, making them available for all. This is all the more urgent in the context of recent sharp spikes in energy and food prices around the world. This inaugural report assesses progress on reducing emissions in five key sectors – power, hydrogen, road transport, steel and agriculture. The authors make recommendations to strengthen collaboration between governments, business and civil society in areas such as common standards, technology R&D, reaching a level playing field for trade, and improving technical and financial assistance. 

"Buildings are the largest emitting sector not currently addressed by the Breakthrough Agenda. While the emissions that occur directly from activity in buildings such as heating, cooling, and cooking account for around 9% of global energy-related CO2 emissions, those that occur indirectly – from the steel, cement, and other materials used in buildings’ construction, and from the generation of the electricity they use – account for an additional 28% of global energy-related CO2 emissions (IEA, 2021d). More than half of the buildings expected to exist by 2050 have not yet been built, meaning that choices made now will have substantial and long-lasting effects on material use and emissions.

There are likely to be significant opportunities for international collaboration in this sector, despite the widely varied needs and opportunities for resilient zero-emission buildings in different regions of the world. These may include collaboration on research and development of zero-emission heating and cooling technologies; sharing learning in the design and construction of high-energy performance buildings with low embodied emissions; and coordination on building codes, standards, and the measurement of life- cycle emissions.

Important collaborative initiatives in the sector include the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction, which shares knowledge and policy best practice among its 36-member countries, and the World Green Building Council, which brings business and civil society actors together in a large number of countries. Relevant research and development initiatives include work on affordable heating and cooling of buildings within Mission Innovation, the IEA’s Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP), and innovation competitions such as the Global Cooling Prize and the Million Cool Roofs Challenge."


The new IEA report “Technology and innovation pathways for zero-carbon-ready buildings by 2030. A strategic vision from the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes” gives recommendations for the technology solutions, innovation strategies and policy instruments for the current decade to achieve Zero-Carbon Buildings by 2050. This report combines input from the IEA Technology Collaboration Programmes.

2022-07-25 | Dr.-Ing. Mira Conci, Alicia Carvajal, Oliver Burgess, Alexa Waud, Juan Lopez Aranguren, Jacqueline Oker-Blom, Celia Puertas, Charlotte May, Manuel Alméstar, Rufus Grantham
EIT Climate-KIC

EIT Climate-KIC and partners have designed the Handbook: Bio-Based and Circular Buildings for Healthy, Clean Cities as an interactive manual and a tracking instrument. It contains information resources and step-by-step processes to help and align local stakeholders’ efforts around reducing embodied carbon emissions in buildings, understand and explore circular practices, and influence changes in the supply chain towards bio-based materials, such as timber – which are more sustainable than the current use of concrete and steel. 

The Handbook supports all actors in the building’s value chain to understand metrics used for decision-making . In doing so, it enables stakeholders to develop benchmarks, to track and evaluate indicators over time; to visualise the processes involved and understand how they need to evolve to lead to different outcomes ; and finally, to create models for collaborative decision-making towards shared goals.

2022-07-11 | John Michael LaSalle, Valerio Micale, Pedro de Aragão Fernandes, Alke Rabinsa Haesra, Eyerusalem Masale, Paul Rosane, Muhammad Ery Wijaya, Muhammad Zeki and Priscilla Negreiros
Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance

"Financing Net Zero Carbon Buildings" is the output of an exercise that aims to build the foundation for future work by the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance (the Alliance) through a structured approach to analyze the challenges and priorities relevant to cities in decarbonizing the buildings sector. It is not an exhaustive study of zero carbon buildings, but rather a guide for future alliance work and exercise to build in-house knowledge.

Read the paper here.

2022-06-01 | Irene Garcia
Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, Laudes Foundation

This document was elaborated by the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) and Culmer Raphael under the project "Dramatically Reducing Embodied Carbon in Europe's Built Environment", which CNCA launched in 2021 with the support of the Laudes Foundation. The purpose of this document is to serve as a communications material that city staff can resort to when raising awareness of the importance of addressing embodied carbon and increasing the uptake of bio-based materials among their city-department peers.

Download it below.

2022-07-15 | UNEP & GlobalABC
3rd Global Conference on Strengthening Synergies between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

This technical brief on the Importance of Building Decarbonization and Benefits for the SDGs is developed with the support of UNEP and the GlobalABC to inform the 3rd Global Conference on Strengthening Synergies between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

According to the IPCC, well-designed and effectively implemented mitigation actions in the buildings sector have significant potential to help achieve the SDGs, as they relate to 15 of the 17 UN SDGs (IPCC, 2022). Whilst contributing to the synergies with most of the SGDs, climate change mitigation actions in the buildings and construction sector may also have trade-offs. The 2030 Agenda sets out ambitious goals for the achievement of a better and more sustainable future for all. Transforming buildings and the built environment can generate multiple benefits, from climate to resources, to improved quality of life, health, shelter and access to basic services. It is critical for the buildings and construction sector to harness the synergies between climate and SDGs while minimising the negative trade-offs. It is also important to note that there exists no one-size-fits-all solution: Synergies and trade-offs vary depending on the national contexts.

World Green Building Council

The 2022 Advancing Net Zero Status Report showcases action from across the Green Building Council (GBC) network including the 30 GBCs participating in WorldGBC’s global Advancing Net Zero programme, as well as signatories to the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment (the Commitment). In addition, the report also highlights collaborative efforts from the market that support WorldGBC’s mission to achieve 100% net zero carbon buildings by 2050. The report includes: Advancing Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Emissions; Regional updates; WLC Roadmaps; Trends & Innovation; Radical Collaboration; World Map; COP27; GBC Leadership Action; Overcoming barriers, renovating to net zero.

Read the report here

GlobalABC Secretariat

The GlobalABC was founded as an umbrella or meta-platform – a network of networks – that brings together initiatives and actors along the entire buildings and construction sector value chain at COP21 in 2015 by a group of governments, businesses, intergovernmental, and non-profit organizations, at the initiative of the French government and UNEP. In the nearly six years since its launch, GlobalABC has created and continues to maintain a neutral, member-driven platform, growing from an initial 79 members to over 200 members, among which 34 countries. Its mission and vision are to connect governments, the private sector, and organisations to drive the transformation towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector to achieve a future-proof world for all buildings – both existing and new. GlobalABC members exchange knowledge, discuss challenges, and collaborate on tools and solutions for rapid decarbonisation of the built environment. In doing so, GlobalABC advocates for, helps develop and implement pathways, policies, strategies and initiatives for reducing climate impacts across the buildings and construction sector. It hereby focuses on both climate mitigation and adaption in support of a net-zero carbon, energy efficient and resilient sector.

Download the 5-year review to look back at the achievements of the GlobalABC and its community since its creation at COP21, and discover how the GlobalABC has succeeded in mobilizing all actors in the sector to raise the profile of buildings for climate action internationally, regionally and locally, to keep track of the progress in decarbonizing the sector and to support countries in transforming their policies through buildings and construction roadmaps. 

2022-03-22 | GlobalABC
GlobalABC Secretariat

As the global pandemic continues to affect the ways we live and work in 2021, the GlobalABC maintained most of its activities in online format, with the exception of COP26, where events were held both in-person and online. This has been a year of great growth of GlobalABC in terms of range of activities, membership and visibility, made possible by engagement of our members and partners in advancing the central role of buildings in climate action. This is reflected in the MPGCA Human Settlements Pathway, where the GlobalABC has led the Built Environment track, and that provides a north star for the sector:

  • By 2030, the built environment should halve its emissions, whereby 100 per cent of new buildings must be net-zero carbon in operation, with widespread energy efficiency retrofit of existing assets well underway, and embodied carbon must be reduced by at least 40 per cent, with leading projects achieving at least 50 per cent reductions in embodied carbon.
  • By 2050, at the latest, all new and existing assets must be net zero across the whole life cycle, including operational and embodied emissions.

Download the report to read more.