Building materials and the climate: constructing a new future

Developing countries should switch from unsustainable building practices to using alternative low-carbon building materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a new UN report highlighted. The world adds buildings equivalent to the size of Paris every five days, states the report — Building Materials and The Climate: Constructing A New Future — by the UNEP, and the Yale Center for Ecosystems and Architecture.

The buildings and construction sector is by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for a staggering 37% of global emissions. The production and use of materials such as cement, steel, and aluminum have a significant carbon footprint. Historically, much of the sector's progress has centered around reducing the "operational” carbon emissions of buildings – those emissions stemming from heating, cooling, and lighting. Projections suggest that these operational emissions will decrease from 75% to 50% of the sector's total emissions in the coming decades. However, solutions to mitigate the buildings "embodied" carbon emissions – originating from the design, production, and deployment of materials such as cement, steel, and aluminum – have lagged. To effectively address this challenge, international action and collaboration must bring together all stakeholders from across the entire lifecycle of the buildings sector, both within informal and formal settings. Building Materials and the Climate: Constructing a New Future, a report developed by UNEP, Yale Center for Ecosystems + Architecture in the framework of the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction (GlobalABC), highlights the pressing need to establish innovative cooperation models to decarbonize building materials.

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