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The Buildings Breakthrough and the Cement Breakthrough launched at COP28  

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), popularly known as United Nations Climate Change Conference, currently being held in UAE has announced several initiatives and partnerships aimed at sustainable urban development which include launch of ‘Buildings Breakthrough’ and the ‘Cement and Concrete Breakthrough’  

The Breakthrough Agenda was initiated at COP26 to close the collaboration gap. It aims to strengthen international collaboration and to support action on climate change to meet the Paris Agreement’s decarbonisation goals. It provides a collaborative framework to the international community. “The Buildings Breakthrough” and “the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough” are part of the Breakthrough Agenda.  

The buildings sector is not performing well towards the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Emissions attributed to this sector is growing at about 1% per year since 2015. In 2021, energy consumption and carbon emissions of the building and construction sector was 34% of energy demand and 37% of carbon emissions. Operational energy related CO2 emissions of this sector was up by 5% over 2020. This sector represents 40% of Europe’s energy demand, half of which comes from fossil fuels. Obviously, reducing carbon emissions is an imperative for this sector to achieve the target of net-zero by the middle of this century. Towards this, the operational emissions should reduce by about 50% from 2022 level by 2030 to get things on track to net-zero emissions by 2050. The international collaboration initiatives have been launched in this background to remove bottlenecks and to support climate actions. Similarly, with total emissions rising since 2015, cement and concrete sector also is not on track to meet net zero emissions by 2050.  

The international collaboration initiative, Buildings Breakthrough was launched by France and Morocco with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) at COP28 on 6th December 2023 to transform the buildings sector (which accounts for 21% of global greenhouse gas emissions) towards the goal of near-zero emissions and climate resilient buildings by 2030. (Climate resilience of a building refers to its ability to keep indoor temperatures within pre‐set limits or to permit people to adapt to changing conditions outdoors. This includes the ability of a building to avoid overheating through passive design approaches such as use of shading, natural breezes, etc. Resilience in buildings is about ability of a building to meet the occupant’s needs and provide for a safe, steady and comfortable use in response to changing conditions outside. Twenty-eight countries have pledged their commitment to this initiative so far. An open invitation has been extended to the nations to join the Buildings Breakthrough).  

COP28 also saw launch of the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough by Canada and UAE. This will work towards making clean cement the preferred choice and establishing near-zero emissions in cement production by 2030. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Japan and Germany have endorsed Concrete Breakthrough so far.  

It is too early to comment on “the Buildings Breakthrough” and “the Cement and Concrete Breakthrough”. However, given the current level of carbon emissions and the rate of increase in emissions, launch of the two Breakthrough initiatives are steps in right direction. Not many countries have pledged their commitments yet. Support by countries like China and India will go a long way however their economic development targets may restrict them joining these initiatives.  

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Sources: 

  1. The Breakthrough Agenda https://breakthroughagenda.org/ 
  2. International Energy Agency (IEA) at COP28. Breakthrough Agenda Report 2023. Available at https://www.iea.org/reports/breakthrough-agenda-report-2023  
  3. UNEP 2022. Press release – CO2 emissions from buildings and construction hit new high, leaving sector off track to decarbonize by 2050: UN. Available at https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/co2-emissions-buildings-and-construction-hit-new-high-leaving-sector  
  4. COP28. Press release – COP28 announces new partnerships and initiatives to advance sustainable urban development. Available at https://www.cop28.com/en/news/2023/12/COP28-announces-new-partnerships-and-initiatives 
  5. UNEP. Press release – The Buildings Breakthrough: Global push for near-zero emission and resilient buildings by 2030 unveiled at COP28. Available at https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/press-release/buildings-breakthrough-global-push-near-zero-emission-and-resilient  
  6. UNEP. A Practical Guide to Climate-resilient Buildings & Communities. Available at https://www.unep.org/resources/practical-guide-climate-resilient-buildings   
  7. Global Cement and Concrete Association. News – Canada launches the Cement & Concrete Breakthrough initiative at COP28. Available at https://gccassociation.org/news/canada-launches-the-cement-concrete-breakthrough-initiative-at-cop28/  

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Umesh Prasad
Umesh Prasad
Science journalist | Founder editor, Scientific European magazine

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