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Green growth to achieve the Paris agreement

The Global Growth Institute sets out how green buildings and infrastructure will be key to meeting decarbonising targets and limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

World Built Environment Forum
22 February 2019

The Global Growth Institute sets out how green buildings and infrastructure will be key to meeting decarbonising targets and limiting global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius.

Since 2011, more than half of the global population has been living in cities. The IPCC stated in its 5th Assessment report (2014) that the urban population is expected to further increase by 2.5 to 3 billion, accounting for about two-thirds of the global population by 2050, with the majority of new urban inhabitants residing in small- and medium-sized cities in the developing world. According to UN-Habitat (2014), 75% of the building stock in developing countries in Africa and Asia will be built between 2010 and 2060.

Cities account for between 67–76% of global energy use and 71–76% of global GHG emissions (Seto et al., 2014). Additionally, the buildings sector is responsible for about one-third of global energy consumption. With a steadily increasing warming climate and growing middle-class in emerging economies, the energy demand for air conditioning is sharply increasing. Moreover, the energy demand for cooling is projected to continue rising, surpassing the energy
consumption for heating by 2060 (Isaac and van Vuuren, 2009).

Urban infrastructure—including buildings, energy, transport, water, and sanitation—is one of the most critical sectors to limit the growth of GHG emissions in the long run since the infrastructure built today will remain in place for the next 30 to 100 years. Regardless of the major infrastructure development over the last years, a lack of basic infrastructure in many parts of the world, particularly in Asia and Africa, remains one of the main global challenges. Around 300 million people in Asia lack safe drinking water, and 1.5 billion lack access to sanitation (ADB, 2017).

Globally, nearly 1.3 billion people still do not have access to electricity, the majority of whom live in developing Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCAP/UN-Habitat, 2015). Furthermore, damage of different types of critical infrastructure—due to climate change induced disasters and extreme weather events—have increased over the last years, causing significant economic losses and casualties (UNISDR, 2015).

Considering the projected expansion of urban population, it is of critical importance that newly built infrastructure and buildings are low carbon and climate-proof to avoid negative lock-in effects for the decades to come and are developed in a way that generates multiple social and environmental benefits and drives economic prosperity. At the same time, access to basic infrastructure should be a priority, representing one of the most important factors to enhance people's resilience to climate change, particularly the poor.

  • Excerpt from the ‘Green growth to achieve the Paris agreement' report
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