An initiative announced at COP28, the ‘Buildings Breakthrough,’ aims to foster international collaboration for decarbonising the built environment sector by pushing for ´near-zero emission and resilient buildings´ to become the new normal by 2030.

The initiative brings together a coalition of governments, private sector actors and industry organisations, at the time of the announcement on 6 December had secured the commitment of some 28 nations and 18 international organisations, co-led by France and the Kingdom of Morocco, and coordinated by the UNEP-hosted Global Alliance for Buildings & Construction.

The 28 countries account for almost one-third of the global population, more than half of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, and nearly two-thirds of world GDP.

In a UNEP statement, Christophe Béchu, French minister for ecological transition and territorial cohesion, acknowledged: “The buildings sector is pivotal for future investments due to its cultural, economic, environmental, and social impact.”

The Buildings Breakthrough is part of the wider Breakthrough Agenda, originally launched at COP26 in Glasgow two years ago, to address high-emitting sectors such as power and steel. Although the building sector was not initially included, a series of subsequent discussions led to “a call for a Buildings Breakthrough as a rallying point” at COP27. The building sector is estimated to be responsible for almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions and 50% of all extracted materials.

In the build up to COP28, global engineering and design consultancy Arup and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) published a report (‘Net Zero Operational Buildings: State of the Art’), which calls for an internationally agreed definition for net zero buildings, to help stimulate more robust national and local government policies and industry standards.

Speaking at the launch of the Buildings Breakthrough at COP28, Arup´s global sustainable development director, Dame Jo Da Silva, welcomed the Buildings Breakthrough initiative, stating: ¨Transformation is only possible with collaboration across what is a very fragmented value chain within the industry, but also collaboration with governments and sub-national governments.¨

The initiative will be further developed at a global forum to be held next March in Paris.