Global CO2 emissions are increasing again after plateauing between 2014 and 2016. Emissions grew 1.6 percent in 2017, and 2.0 percent in 2018. The increases were driven by rising energy consumption from fossil fuels.
As the climate crisis intensifies, the timeline of our actions will determine whether climate change is manageable or catastrophic.
We have a global CO2 emissions budget left of ~340 GtCO2 to retain a 67% chance of meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree C target and avert the most dangerous aspects of climate change. To stay within this budget, it is crucial that we meet three milestone targets:
Peak global CO2 emissions NOW!
Reduce global CO2 emissions 65% by 2030, and
Achieve ZERO emissions by 2040
Put simply, TIME’S UP! – bold and immediate action is required. The actions in the built environment required of all countries, sub-national governments, and businesses to meet the above targets must include:
Ban the construction of any new fossil fuel power plants (coal and gas).
Ban on-site fossil fuel use in new buildings (no gas hook-ups, propane, fuel oil, etc.).
Begin phasing out fossil fuel plants (replace with carbon-free renewable energy); reducing the embodied carbon of steel, concrete and building materials; renovating and electrifying existing buildings; and adopting a Renewable Energy Standard (zero-net-carbon) for all new buildings and major renovations (see zero-code.org).
2) By 2030:
Phase out all coal power plants.
Reduce the embodied carbon of steel and concrete to zero.
Electrify 50% of all existing buildings.
3) By 2040:
Phase out all remaining fossil fuel power plants.
Phase out the embodied carbon of all construction and building materials.
We must act now! Every second we waste; we steal time from our future selves and future generations who will bear the consequences of our inaction.
Embodied carbon – the CO2 emitted during the extraction, manufacture, and transport of building materials and products, and the construction of buildings and infrastructure.
Building electrification – involves substituting electric technologies for on-site combustion-fueled technologies for building end uses such as space heating, hot water, etc.
2030 fossil fuel emissions reductions (% of total global emissions – % of total built environment emissions): Phasing out all coal power plants = ~10.1 GtCO2 (30.4% – 40.2%) Zero embodied carbon steel = ~2.86 GtCO2 (8.6% – 11.3%) Zero embodied carbon concrete = ~2.86 GtCO2 (11.1% – 14.5%) Electrify 50% of existing building floor area (on-site fossil fuel reduction) = ~1.39 GtCO2 (4.2% – 5.5%)
Sources: International Energy Agency; World Steel Association; Carbon Smart Materials Palette. Emissions reductions are approximate.
Architecture 2030’s mission is to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central solution to the climate crisis.