We must eliminate all CO2 emissions from the built environment by 2040 to meet 1.5°Climate targets.


The built environment generates 40% of annual global CO2 emissions.

Of those total emissions, building operations are responsible for 27% annually, while building and infrastructure materials and construction (typically referred to as embodied carbon) are responsible for an additional 13% annually.


In 2040 approximately 2/3 of the global building stock will be buildings that exist today.

Without widespread existing building decarbonization across the globe, these buildings will still be emitting CO2 emissions in 2040 and we will not achieve the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C target.

Achieving zero emissions from the existing building stock will require leveraging building intervention points to accelerate the rate of energy upgrades (increasing energy efficiency, eliminating on-site fossil fuels, and generating and/or procuring 100% renewable energy).


To accommodate the largest wave of building growth in human history, from 2020 to 2060, we expect to add about 2.6 trillion ft2 (240 billion m2) of new floor area to the global building stock, the equivalent of adding an entire New York City to the world, every month, for 40 years. 

Achieving zero emissions from new construction will require energy efficient buildings that use no on-site fossil fuels to operate, and are 100% powered by on- and/or off-site renewable energy.


When we look at all the new construction that is projected to take place between now and 2040, we see the critical role embodied carbon plays.

Unlike operational carbon emissions, which can be reduced over time with building energy upgrades and the use of renewable energy, embodied carbon emissions are locked in place as soon as a building is built. It is critical that we get a handle on embodied carbon now if we hope to achieve zero emissions by 2040.

Achieving zero embodied emissions will require adopting the principles of:

  • Reuse, including renovating existing buildings, using recycled materials, and designing for deconstruction.
  • Reduce, including material optimization and the specification of low to zero carbon materials.
  • Sequester, including the design of carbon sequestering sites and the use of carbon sequestering materials.

Just three materials  – concrete, steel, and aluminum – are responsible for 23% of total global emissions (most of this used in the built environment).

There is incredible opportunity for embodied carbon reduction in these high-impact materials through policy, design, material selection, and specification.

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