Climate Bright Spot: Building Sector Success Story &
IPCC 1.5°C: What Are the Odds?
May 2023 | announcements
Climate Bright Spot: Building Sector Success Story
We are now witnessing the remarkable decarbonization of the U.S. building sector with record CO2 emissions reductions that began in 2005. That year, building operating energy and emissions decoupled from building sector growth.
Since 2005, the carbon intensity of the entire U.S. building stock (CO2 emissions per square foot of floor area) declined by 39.8% for residential and 43.7% for commercial buildings:
From 2005 to 2022, the U.S. added 62.5 billion square feet to its building stock – the equivalent to adding about six cities the size of Boston each year – but building sector operating energy consumption did not increase (down 3.5%) and CO2 emissions declined 28.4%:
From 2010 to 2022, residential and commercial building energy consumers saved approximately $530 billion total from 2010 projected energy costs:
Globally, we are seeing a dramatic increase in worldwide activity towards developing renewable energy, and by 2025 the International Energy Agency estimates that renewables will become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide:
All building sector floor area, operating energy and emissions statistics cited above are derived from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s “Annual Energy Outlook 2005 to 2022.”
IPCC: 1.5°C, What Are the Odds?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released its latest report on the climate crisis, the AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023, which provided both dire and optimistic findings – we are on the brink of irrevocable global damage, and it is not too late to limit the worst consequences of climate change if we effectively fast-track efforts to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s warming limit of 1.5°C or well below 2°C.
The odds of limiting warming to 1.5°C have dropped to a 50% or better likelihood with a remaining carbon budget of approximately 500 GtCO2 (with a 300 to 600 GtCO2 variability). This budget for a 50/50 chance of staying below 1.5°C equates to a 43% CO2 reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2050. Of course, the sooner we phase out fossil fuels and reach net-zero the better the odds for keeping warming at 1.5°C. In that case, meeting the targets set out by built environment leaders at COP26 in the 1.5°C Communiqué – a 50% CO2 reduction by 2030 and net-zero by 2040 – give a better than 50% likelihood of limiting warming to 1.5°C.
With change happening fast, the built environment responsible for about 40% of global emissions, and the end of the fossil fuel era within sight, limiting warming to 1.5°C or well below 2°C will likely depend upon the immediate actions taken to decarbonize the built environment.