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Why buildings? Our key messages

1. The GlobalABC is a multi-stakeholder alliance committed to delivering a zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings and construction sector.
  • The UNEP-hosted GlobalABC is the leading global platform for governments, the private sector, civil society, research and intergovernmental organizations committed to accelerating the sustainability transformation of the building sector.
  • The GlobalABC is a global advocate and a catalyst to action: GlobalABC advocates for market transformation and focuses on catalysing action by defining a carbon neutrality strategy for the built environment.
  • The GlobalABC is a trusted platform to set targets and track progress: GlobalABC tracks progress in its annual Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction (Buildings-GSR), and its Building Climate Tracker, a new index to track progress in decarbonization in the sector.
  • The GlobalABC supports countries in setting priorities and measures based on their situation: GlobalABC develops policy guidance and global and regional buildings and construction roadmaps outlining aspirational targets, timelines, and key actions for essential policies and technologies, and, offering a model for national and city-level buildings and construction roadmaps to support and raise the ambition of NDCs.
2. Building decarbonization and resilience are necessary if we are to meet the Paris Agreement objectives and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

(1) The buildings and construction sector is critical to global climate action… 

  • Buildings are one of the six sectors which can collectively cut carbon emissions to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C (UNEP, 2020).
  • The buildings and construction sector is a very high-emitting sector. In 2021, it accounted for around 37% of energy and process-related CO2 emissions and over 34% of energy demand globally (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • Half of the buildings standing in 2050 have not yet been built: The equivalent of Paris is added in floor space every 5 days and that of Japan every year until 2060 (GlobalABC, 2017).
  • A typical building already standing or being constructed today will still be in use in 2070 and beyond, but the climate it encounters will have changed significantly. Therefore, increasing building resilience is vital (GlobalABC, 2021).

(2) …but also to our economy and wellbeing.

  • The built environment is responsible for about 7% of global employment or 200 million jobs (ILO, 2019), and accounts for 11-13% of global GDP (ILO, 2016).
  • An estimated 9‑30 jobs are created for every USD 1 million invested in retrofits and efficiency measures in new construction (GlobalABC, 2020).
  • Efficient buildings are one of the biggest investment opportunities across emerging market cities by 2030 (IFC, 2019). In 2021, global investment in building energy efficiency increased by an unprecedented 16% from 2020 to a total of approximately USD 237 billion (GlobalABC, 2022).
3. The adoption of a whole life cycle perspective, tackling both embodied and operational carbon is essential to achieving zero-emission, efficient and resilient buildings.
  • Buildings and construction materials represent around 9% of overall energy-related CO2 emissions. Ca. 100 billion tonnes of waste is caused by construction, renovation and demolition, with about 35% sent to landfills  (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • Construction materials are set to dominate resource consumption in fast-growing developing economies, with associated greenhouse gas emissions expected to double by 2060  (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • The “Avoid-Shift-Improve-Adapt” strategy as a solution to reduce the operational and embodied carbon of building materials.
    • Avoid: Design better and build with less
    • Shift: Use alternative building materials
    • Improve: Decarbonise conventional materials
    • Adapt: Reduce building materials’ operational carbon


4. The UNFCCC-MPGCA Human Settlements Pathway, co-led by the GlobalABC, is the North Star of the buildings and construction sector, outlining 2030 and 2050 decarbonization goals for the built environment:
  • By 2030, the built environment should halve its emissions, whereby 100% 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%, with leading projects achieving at least 50% 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.
5. Progress is visible and high-level commitments are increasing, but more and faster action, bolder policy, and deeper collaboration are needed to achieve transformational change in the buildings and construction sector.
  • The buildings and construction sector’s emissions intensity (kgCO2/m2) has dropped from 43 in 2015 to 40 in 2021 (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • The sector’s energy intensity (kWh/m2) has only slightly decreased from 153 in 2015 to 152 in 2021 (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • The global gross floor area (bn m2) has increased from 218 in 2015 to 242 in 2021 (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • As of the end of 2022, 80% of countries referred to buildings as part of their NDC action plans, although only 26% of countries had mandatory building energy codes for the entire sector (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • Between 2020 and 2022, there was a 19% increase in green building certifications across the world (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • The global investment (2021 USD bn) in the buildings and construction sector has increased from USD 156 bn in 2015 to USD 237 bn in 2021 -  an increase of ca. 50% (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • Increasing ambition to act on buildings’ emissions must be matched by action in policy, regulation and continued investment. More progress is required on global adoption of mandatory building energy codes and for existing codes to align to zero emissions (GlobalABC, 2022).
  • The Buildings Breakthrough target, co-led by France and the Kingdom of Morocco, rallies countries around a common aim and pathways towards buildings decarbonization and resilience and enables a framework of levers for all actors along the sector value chain.
Decarbonizing the building sector: 10 Key Measures

The 10 key measures provide a set of transformative action to inspire decision makers to decarbonize the buildings sector, and cover five of the eight key areas of the GlobalABC roadmaps

New buildings:

  • Establish and implement an ambitious, mandatory energy code for buildings
  • Support the use of integrated design

Existing buildings:

  • Promote deep energy renovation
  • Lead by example by decarbonizing public buildings

Buildings operations:

  • Use energy information and behaviour change to drive energy efficiency
  • Promote financing for energy efficiency

Building materials:

  • Enable easy access to information on the carbon footprint of materials
  • Develop public procurement policies that incentivize materials with low carbon footprints


  • Integrate nature-based solutions into urban planning, buildings and construction
  • Develop integrated resilience strategies and plans for the built environment