An annual report issued by the UN Environment Program-hosted Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction concludes that in 2020, the building and construction sector accounted for 36% of global final energy consumption and 37% of energy related carbon dioxide emissions, as compared to other end use sectors. This emissions contribution is 10% lower than in 2019, a decline largely due to lockdowns, sluggish economic growth and a fall in construction activity.

Despite the dampening effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on economic activity, some indicators signal improvements relative to 2019 trends. Energy efficiency investment in buildings increased 11% while green building certification increased 13.9% in 2020, and 10 more countries adopted building energy codes. However, if the effect of the pandemic is excluded, the decarbonization level in 2020 was only at 40% of the 2050 reference path to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

The sector’s share of global final energy and energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020. Source: International Energy AgencyThe sector’s share of global final energy and energy-related CO2 emissions in 2020. Source: International Energy Agency

Global energy demand in buildings fell 1% in 2020 to around 127 EJ and CO2 emissions from building operations fell 10% to around 8.7 gigatons, trends reflecting a shift in the way existing buildings were used during the pandemic and declines in production and demand for construction materials.

Energy demand in the buildings and construction sector is likely to rebound as economic recovery efforts take hold and as pent-up demands for new construction are realized. Stakeholders are advised to seize this opportunity to foster transformation for decarbonizing the sector.

To contact the author of this article, email shimmelstein@globalspec.com