2019 GABC - Decarbonisation Policies in the Buildings and Construction Sector

4 The building sector is not on track to lower total greenhouse gas emissions. Given that emissions from the sector represent nearly 40% of global energy-and process-related emissions, this represents a serious challenge to keeping global warming to 1.5°C. The Buildings sector must therefore decarbonize.


To support this goal, this report focuses on policy drivers for decarbonisation, and the costs and benefits associated with their implementation. In this report these policies are referred to as building climate actions, and include policies that tackle reducing (1) direct emissions from building energy use which includes (2) indirect emissions from the power sector, (3) and emissions from energy used in the building materials and construction supply chain (embodied emissions). All three aspects of the carbon footprint of buildings need to be addressed by policy-makers and practitioners in cost effective ways. Although gaps in the evidence base make generalisation unreliable, the body of experience over many years indicates that the social and economic co-benefits of taking these actions outweigh the costs of development and implementation. Inaction also increases the cost of climate adaptation, and exacerbates risks to health, security and property that create an imperative for taking urgent actions to decarbonize the buildings sector.


This report is designed for national, state and local governments and relevant ministries in charge of developing and implementing buildings and construction policies. It provides a review of the evidence on cost-effective public policies for reducing building energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions that also deliver societal benefits and provide insight into best practices. It further shines a first light on multiple impacts and cost implications of the selected policies. It is organised into four sections.


The first section establishes the problem context and policy priorities for decarbonising the buildings sector to support achieving the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It also introduces the Global ABC Global Roadmap and Regional Roadmaps, which provide a strategic framework for packaging cost-effective building climate actions.


Section 2 focuses on cost-effective building climate policies and on the financial and energy impacts of key policy measures including building codes, renovation targets, building energy performance certificates, rating and disclosure schemes. Section 2 also reviews the costs and benefits of market-based approaches including grants, carbon pricing and emissions trading, and energy efficiency obligations.


Section 3 then looks at the broader monetary and co-benefits of policy packages including stimulating economic development, employment, health & wellbeing, productivity, climate change resilience, integrated planning and nature-based solutions.


Section 4 draws from the preceding sections to provide insights into developing cost-effective and high impact policy packages for designing and implementing sustainable buildings roadmaps. The report concludes with recommendations for policy makers on how to implement policy packages for decarbonising the buildings sector.