The Summit convened the leadership of top 50 Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and planning firms, AIA Large Firm Roundtable, and other key professionals responsible for well over one trillion dollars of global annual construction. These industry leaders enthusiastically rallied around establishing building sector emissions targets that dramatically increase the odds of meeting the Paris Agreement 1.5 degree C goal, making it clear that not only are more aggressive targets feasible, but they are necessary to keep climate change manageable.
In response, Architecture 2030 presented the “Zero CO2 Emissions by 2040″ scenario for the built environment including the following interim emissions reduction timeline and targets necessary to achieve a high probability (67% chance) of successfully meeting the Paris 1.5 degree C target:
For all new buildings and major renovations – zero-net-carbon (ZNC) operations as soon as possible (adopt, adapt or supplement national and international ZNC code standards – see ZERO Code).
For embodied carbon – a 40% reduction as soon as possible for all new buildings, infrastructure, and major renovations, and 65% by 2030.
For existing buildings – a 65% reduction by 2030 in operational carbon emissions.
Zero carbon emissions for the entire built environment by 2040.
We applaud the leaders at the Summit for understanding the urgency, boldly embracing these accelerated targets, and working to establish the will and actions needed to achieve them.
Graph: According to the IPCC, the total CO2 budget, beginning in 2020, is about 340 GtCO2 for a 67% probability of staying below 1.5 degree C, and about 500 GtCO2 for a 50% probability of staying below 1.5 degree C.
We know that we can meet these targets. Today, the U.S. building sector’s annual CO2 emissions from building operations are down 18.9% from 2005 levels despite adding about 50 billion square feet to the building stock.
Widespread adoption of the ZERO Code will accelerate this trend, ensuring that new buildings do not contribute any operational carbon emissions. Additionally, just phasing out coal generated electricity and replacing it with renewables over the next 10 years would reduce sector emissions an additional 45.5%*, which is happening now (see here and here)!
Though we continue to make great strides in improving building energy use and operational emissions, a major focus of the SUMMIT was the urgent need to meaningfully address the embodied carbon of infrastructure, buildings, and materials, which until recently have been largely neglected.
Current accounting of the emissions associated with just two materials (concrete and steel) finds that their embodied carbon – and by extension the AEC professionals who plan, design, and construct the built environment – are responsible for roughly half of all global industrial CO2 emissions, or about 20% of total global emissions.
Following the SUMMIT, leading firms will now share their work on embodied carbon reductions and establish a coordinated plan of action for rapidly decarbonizing the built environment and the materials they specify for construction. Architecture 2030 is working with the AIA to incorporate embodied carbon reporting into the AIA 2030 Commitment, which now has over 625 participating firms.
We will continue to build momentum for immediate, impactful, and scalable actions on embodied carbon with the CarbonPositive‘20 CONFERENCE and EXPO, scheduled for March 2-4, 2020 in Los Angeles. The Conference will provide a “how-to” for planning, designing, building and manufacturing a CarbonPositive future – cities, developments, buildings and materials that go beyond carbon neutral, create a positive environmental impact, and sequester CO2. CarbonPositive’20 is an interdisciplinary, practice-focused event, open to all architects, planners, engineers, builders, developers, policymakers, product manufacturers and others. Register here!
We are in the midst of a climate emergency and timing is everything. We understand that immediate and sustained progress on ambitious targets for the global built environment’s entire emissions profile is achievable and crucial to our success.