UN Global Stocktake: Lessons for Construction
Key takeaways for construction professionals from the UN report which reveals that the world is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement
Act now or face global warming beyond 2 degrees Celsius — that’s the stark warning from the inaugural Global Stocktake Report, released by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on September 8, 2023.
The Global Stocktake is a comprehensive assessment of the collective progress towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. It aims to provide a transparent overview of progress and is the culmination of a two-year participatory process of analysis and discussion.
As many had expected, the report finds that the world is not on track to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, or preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial levels.
Critical Gaps in Climate Action
The report identifies a number of key gaps in climate action, including:
- The emissions gap: The world is still emitting too much greenhouse gas emissions. Even if all countries met their current emissions targets, the world would still warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. See figure 1 (taken from the report) below.
- The finance gap: There is not enough money flowing to developing countries to help them adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy.
- The technology gap: There are still some key technologies that need to be developed and deployed in order to achieve deep cuts in emissions.
The global stocktake will end up being just another report unless governments and those that they represent can look at it and ultimately understand what it means for them and what they can and must do next.
* Based on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)
** Based on reduction scenarios calculated in the the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Sources: Historical data from the IPCC for 1950-1989 ; the 2022 NDC synthesis report for 1990-2020; 2030 projections from NDCs; and reduction scenarios from the AR6.
Opportunities for Systemic Change and Climate Action
The report also finds that there are a number of opportunities to accelerate climate action, including:
- Accelerating the transition to clean energy: This is the single most important thing that can be done to reduce emissions.
- Investing in adaptation: Developing countries need more financial support to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.
- Closing the technology gap: Governments and businesses need to invest in research and development of new technologies that can help reduce emissions.
What Does the Global Stocktake Mean for Buildings and Construction?
With the built environment the largest contributing sector to climate change, the report carries a clear call-to-action for systemic change across our industry.
For the built environment transitioning to low-carbon materials and clean energy is essential for Paris Agreement compliance. Accelerating green building standards and sustainable practices is paramount.
The report states that existing and future buildings can achieve net-zero emissions by mid-century through use of low-carbon materials, reduced energy demand, and mitigation strategies in design, construction, and retrofits.
The Global Stocktake report is a stark warning that the world needs to take urgent action to address climate change. The report calls on countries to increase their ambition in their emissions targets and to invest more in climate action. The report also calls for a more equitable distribution of climate finance, so that developing countries can have the resources they need to adapt to climate change.
The Global Stocktake report will be considered by governments at next meeting of the UN Climate Change Conference, known as COP 28, taking place in the United Arab Emirates later this year.
COP stands for Conference of Parties, the name given to the decision-making body representing the 197 countries and territories that have signed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year’s COP will be the 28th since the first one was held in Berlin in 1995. That’s why it is known as COP 28. The report is expected to play a key role in shaping the negotiations at COP 28 and beyond.
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