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Move to green construction to reduce emissions, says IFC

26th October 2023

Moving to sustainable construction could help substantially reduce global carbon emissions from the built environment, a new report from the International Finance Corporation claims. 

The report, Building Green: Sustainable Construction in Emerging Markets, argues that green construction could reduce the emissions due to the “construction value chain”, which includes the construction and operation of buildings as well as production of materials such as steel and cement, by around 23% by 2035, compared with 2035 emissions if nothing is done. Emerging markets would account for about 55% of this projected reduction. 

The IFC estimates that continuing with current practice will lead to a 13% hike in emissions from the sector by 2035, from 2022. Moving to green construction methods and materials on the other hand, will cut emissions by 13% from today’s levels.

The construction and operation of buildings and the manufacture of materials such as cement and steel account for approximately 40% of global energy and industrial CO2 emissions. A large share of these emissions is generated in emerging markets, where growing populations and rising wealth drives new construction. Today, these markets often rely on more carbon-intensive methods and materials.

Markets need to introduce green construction practices, materials, and technologies, such as energy-efficient building codes and standards, greening government buildings and procurement, and carbon pricing policies, among other measures. 

Measures will require $3.5 trillion of investment

The cost of this transformation will be $3.5 trillion globally by 2035, $1.5 trillion of which will fall on emerging markets over the next decade, the report says.

"The green construction revolution is picking up speed," said IFC managing director Makhtar Diop. "With the right enabling measures, we could see a surge of private sector financing that will capitalize on the enormous opportunity and huge necessity to transition to sustainable construction in emerging markets."  

For building operations, which account for half of all construction-related emissions, renewable energies and new materials such as reflective painting for rooftops and film coating for windows can reduce emissions significantly and generate significant cost savings over time, the report says. 

For new buildings, greener materials, energy-efficient and resilient designs, rainwater collection and district cooling represent “attractive options”. For construction materials, improving energy efficiency, and switching to greener processes, raw materials, and non-fossil fuels can also significantly reduce carbon emissions.

The IFC calls for policymakers “to take decisive steps toward establishing the appropriate business, policy, and regulatory frameworks that will facilitate the green construction transition”.

Learn more about the report here.

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