This week, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have released their latest report(i), which outlines essential steps the world must take to keep the planet safe and liveable. It emphasises how time is running out to tackle this problem, with dramatic action required within this decade, across all economic sectors.
The report outlines six key findings(ii) , which show that:
1. Global emissions must peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030
2. We cannot allow for any new fossil fuel infrastructure
3. We need rapid transformations across all systems to avoid the worst climate impacts, including: scaling up green energy; investing in decarbonisation; incentivizing green buildings; redesigning cities; shifting to low-carbon transport; conserving ecosystems and improving food systems
4. Those in wealthier states need to change their lifestyle and behaviours, for example walking instead of driving, using energy more efficiently and moving to plant-based diets
5. Carbon removal is required to limit warming to 1.5C, whether through restoring carbon sinks or by future technologies
6. Climate finance must be 3 to 6 times higher by 2030 to limit warning to at least 2C
This is a wake-up call to all sectors of the global economy to change dramatically and rapidly. This is especially important in building and construction, which is responsible for a huge 39% of all global emissions(iii).
Although most agree that moving towards sustainability is necessary, there is an incorrect notion that this can be done gradually over the next few decades. This report makes it very clear that rapid action is needed now…within the next two and a half years.
All companies within the construction sector should therefore implement drastic action to reduce their climate impact. This must be through reducing both operational emissions and embodied carbon emissions, as well as looking at effective ways to offset any that remain.
To reduce operational emissions, the sector must ensure that buildings are LEED (or equivalent) accredited, and encourage smart, efficient buildings that focus on sustainability. Meanwhile, reducing embodied carbon will require moving away from carbon-intensive raw materials, promoting renovation instead of demolition and seeking new circular business models.
If such action is made within construction alone, it would have a huge impact on global emissions. In unison with other sectors, staying below this crucial 1.5C rise becomes more and more of a possibility. So, let’s not lose hope – let’s instead use this final warning as a driver for action.
i IPCC, 2 April 2022, https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-3
ii Schumer et al., ‘6 Takeaways from the 2022 IPCC Climate Change Mitigation Report.’ World Resources Institute, 4 April 2022, https://www.wri.org/insights/ipcc-report-2022-mitigation-climate-change
iii Abergel et al., ‘Global Status Report 2017’, World Green Building Council, https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/global-status-report-2017