The Key to a Net-Zero Future Is Lower Carbon Buildings Today

Nov 6, 2023 10:00 AM ET

by Beau Engman of PACE Equity and Lucas Pappas of Calvert Impact

You might be surprised to learn that the buildings where we live, work, and play are some of the biggest sources of carbon emissions. Worldwide, the built environment generates roughly 42 percent of annual C02 emissions, with building operations accounting for 27 percent of the total and embodied carbon from four main building materials – cement, iron, steel and aluminum – accounting for the other 15 percent.

Rapid growth in the building sector is expected to continue. The technology to create greener buildings doesn’t need to be invented; lower-carbon solutions for buildings already exist. Now, we just need to put them to work, and quickly. By greening buildings now, we could drastically cut the cost of transitioning to a clean energy future and make it happen much faster. A recent report shows that increasing building efficiency could reduce the total cost of decarbonizing the country’s power supply as much as $107 billion per year, or one-third of the total energy transition cost. Building decarbonization is needed for carbon reduction today, for the grid to be able to handle the increase in renewable electrification of tomorrow, and to bring a clean energy future years earlier.

It is clear that addressing our climate challenge will require the real estate sector to be significantly engaged, an imperative recognized by lawmakers in more than 30 U.S. states that have implemented commercial property assessed clean energy (C-PACE) programs. C-PACE programs provide incentivized financing for green upgrades to existing buildings and new construction that meet environmental standards.

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