The world’s construction sector can reduce embodied carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and could be net zero emissions by 2050 if a steps taken in a landmark new report are followed through.

The World Green Building Council has issued what it says is a bold new vision which it says could see the volume of embodied carbon emissions in buildings reduced by 40 percent by 2030 and could achieve 100 percent net zero buildings by 2050.

According to WGBC, the building and construction sector accounts for 39 percent of all carbon emissions globally.

Operational emissions from energy used to heat, cool and light buildings accounts for 28 percent of all global carbon emissions.

The remaining 11 percent associated with building and construction comes from embodied or ‘upfront’ carbon emissions which are associated with materials and construction processes throughout the building lifecycle.

The report calls for action from a range of parties.

This includes green building councils and other NGOs, governments, cities, investors, developers, designers and materials manufacturers.

It sets out 25 short and long-range actions which must be taken across aforementioned stakeholders in order for the plan to be delivered.

At various stages over the next thirty years, these actions include:

  • Creating and committing to national roadmaps toward NetZero,
  • Setting and committing to standards, targets and certification schemes
  • Investors only financing new buildings, infrastructure or manufacturing plant which meet targets.
  • Developers mandating discover of supply chain data and construction site emissions
  • Developers requiring construction sites to be efficient and be powered by renewable energy.
  • Designers proposing best practice embodied carbon reduction targets
  • Manufacturers shifting to renewable or low carbon energy and declaring their embodied carbon via environmental product disclosure statements.

According to the report, embodied carbon emissions have been overlooked but reducing these is a significant part in keeping global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

WGBC is also encouraging strategies such as maximising the use of existing assets, promoting renovation instead of demolition and seeking new circular business models that reduce reliance on carbon intensive raw materials are also needed.

WGBC chief executive officer Cristina Gamboa welcomed the report’s release.

“Our new report is a solution focused response to the urgent need to significantly reduce upfront emissions in buildings and construction and demand action across carbon intensive industries and materials,” Gamboa said.

“With the support of our global network and the endorsements we have received for the report, we are confident that we can stimulate market demand and facilitate radical whole value chain collaboration that will be truly transformative and benefit both people and planet.

“We will accelerate action to achieve our goal of slashing embodied carbon by 40% by 2030 and securing net zero embodied carbon by 2050, in addition to our net zero operational carbon goals.”

Green Building Council of Australia CEO Davina Rooney heralded the ambitious vision saying the report demonstrated an achievable and necessary pathway to reduce emissions.

“Our built environment must play a critical role in reducing unsustainable carbon outputs, given it is currently responsible for 39 per cent of global emissions,” Ms Rooney said.

“We have had a strong focus on operational carbon emissions. Now it is time to boost our efforts to reduce embodied carbon emissions as well.

“In Australia we are already planning for a net zero carbon future – and better – with many of our members leading the way globally in terms of both innovation and commitment to a lower emissions future.

“As a founding WorldGBC member, we are delighted to see our Carbon Positive Roadmap also highlighted in this report as a leading strategy in industry carbon reduction.