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All buildings ‘must be net zero carbon’ by 2050 to avert irreversible climate change

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Every building in the world must attain ‘net zero carbon’ status by 2050 if the effects of global warming are to be limited to below 2 degrees Celsius, a new report has claimed.

The report, issued by the World Green Building Council (WGBC), warned that there are currently just 500 commercial buildings to have attained that status across the globe – well under 1% - and implored the building sector to improve.

Defining a ‘net zero carbon’ building as one that is “highly energy-efficient… with all remaining operational energy use from renewable energy, preferably on-site but also off-site production, to achieve net zero carbon emissions annually”, WGBC has put into place this target due to the building and construction sectors being responsible for ~30% of global energy consumption.

The WGBC has said reaching this target would require a “monumental and coordinated effort” by the world’s businesses, governments and NGOs to bring the building sector to “within striking distance of Paris Agreement targets”.

A number of calls to action have been placed by the WGBC, separated by what it is requiring from businesses and governments.

The body wants businesses to commit to investing in, building and occupying net zero carbon buildings by 2050 – with new buildings given an earlier target of 2030 – and to implement policies and practices to ensure assets operate at net zero carbon “as soon as possible”.

It has also stressed the need for business to disclose carbon emissions from all assets by 2030, and certify all new assets as net zero carbon or net zero energy.

Governments meanwhile must commit to national or sub-national regulations for both new and existing buildings, commit to occupying only net zero carbon buildings themselves by 2030, and collaborate with all relevant stakeholders to overcome any barriers identified as preventing net zero carbon buildings.

Terri Wills, chief executive of the WGBC, said: “We need nothing short of a dramatic and ambitious transformation from a world of thousands of net zero buildings, to one of billions if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

“Businesses, governments and NGOs hold the key to this transformation, but they must commit to aggressive action. It is possible to create a world in which every single building produces zero carbon emissions, but we must start today.”

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