• BDO on COP26

BDO COP26 Digest #10 - 11 November 2021

11 November: Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day.

Accelerated action on the built environment sector, driven by subnational leaders, is vital both for emissions mitigation and to create resilient communities.

Urban Climate Action Programme launched

  • The UK pledged £27.5m of new funding for the new Urban Climate Action Programme (UCAP) to support cities targeting net zero. The programme, funded through International Climate Finance, will support cities across Africa, Asia and Latin America to take climate action and create a sustainable future, by helping them implement innovative climate action plans to become carbon neutral by 2050 and prepare low-carbon infrastructure projects to reduce emissions. 
  • UCAP will help cities to implement projects like low-emission public transport systems, renewable energy generation, sustainable waste management, new climate-smart buildings codes and climate risk planning. By showcasing what is possible, city and regional authorities can demonstrate to other cities and national governments the opportunities available to drive action.
  • The programme will be delivered in partnership with the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a global network of cities focused on climate action, and GIZ, the German development agency.
  • UCAP will build on the flagship Climate Leadership in Cities programme, which successfully supported megacities in Latin America and Asia to develop ambitious climate action plans consistent with the Paris Agreement.  This includes developing pathways to net zero by 2050 and committing to ambitious interim targets by 2030 to keep 1.5 degrees within reach.

Cities and regions ‘Race to Zero’

  • 1,049 cities and local governments are now participating in the Race to Zero. These collectively represent more than 722 million people. Additionally, 109 regions, cities and states have signed up to ‘Race to Resilience.’ One of the newest members is India’s largest state by GDP, Maharashtra, where more than 124 million people live.
  • 68 cities, states and regions have signed up to a range of new cross-sector actions (to be taken this decade) to decrease emissions, increase climate resilience and protect biodiversity. The Coalition covers 260 governments representing 50% of the economy and, shortly before COP26, updated its membership criteria in line with a 1.5C temperature pathway.

UK Green Building Council plots sector’s net-zero pathway

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has unveiled a breakthrough Whole Life Carbon Roadmap - a tool to help businesses across the built environment sector measure and cut carbon from materials, processes, operation and demolition.

Of particular interest will be the details for measuring, reporting and reducing embodied carbon. UKGBC, as is the case with many national Green Building Councils, has provided information on measuring and reducing operational emissions for several years and has dedicated much work to the need to reduce embodied carbon to net-zero by 2050.

The roadmap also includes several major calls to action for policymakers regarding the delivery of its net-zero-by-2050 scenario for the sector, in which annual emissions fall from 180MT of CO2e in 2018 to less than 20 Mt of CO2e by mid-century.

Facts on the built environment

  • The global buildings and construction sector contributes 40% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs); the equivalent of China’s total annual emissions
  • Of those total sector GHGs, building operations are responsible for 28% annually, while building materials and construction (typically referred to as ‘embodied carbon’) are responsible for an additional 12% annually
  • In 2040, 2/3 of the global building stock will be buildings that exist today. With upgrades they will still emit GHGs
  • Global building floor area is expected to double by 2060. To accommodate the largest wave of urban growth in human history, we expect to add 230 billion m2 of new floor area to the global building stock, the equivalent of adding an entire New York City to the world, every month, for 40 years
  • Just three materials – concrete, steel, and aluminium – are responsible for 23% of total global emissions (most of this used in the built environment).

Other COP26 developments:

Global carbon markets negotiations facing headwinds

Talks on creating a global carbon market ran into new obstacles, highlighting how difficult it will be to break a six-year deadlock on an issue seen as a key benchmark of success for COP26. Negotiations on carbon trading exposed deep disagreements on how to account for emissions credits that get sold in the global market. How to avoid double counting of carbon offsets is one major stumbling block to arrive at an agreement in Glasgow this week. The hope is that an accord on trading can help lower emissions, transfer cash to poor countries and boost investment in clean energy technology. The main risk is that a weak deal would enshrine in the system rules so loose that they could end up allowing for emissions to rise rather than fall.