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Accelerating Building Decarbonization

In order to slow global warming, building decarbonisation is a priority area for the coming ten years.

In order to meet the Paris Agreement targets reducing the carbon footprint of buildings will be at the center of actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

In the past it was assumed that zero carbon buildings could only be attained by technologically advanced or wealthy countries. However, now, the research by World Resources Institute asserts that Zero Carbon Buildings (ZCB’s) are possible in all economies, and we must start pursuing them today.

This report highlights eight pathways that countries can take in order to reach zero carbon buildings targets by reducing their energy demand and cleaning up the energy supply. Each pathway is a combination of up to five components: basic energy efficiency, advanced energy efficiency, on-site carbon-free renewable energy, off-site carbon-free renewable energy, and carbon offsets only in cases where efficiency measures and renewables cannot meet 100 percent of energy demand. This paper can help interested urban decision-makers broaden their thinking around the options available to them for decarbonizing their local building stock.

The main focal points of this report are:

  • Cities will lead the shift to net zero carbon buildings (ZCBs) and will therefore play a major role in achieving the goal of a decarbonized world.
  • ZCBs are more achievable when the definition is expanded beyond the boundary of the individual building to allow the use of off-site clean energy or consideration across a portfolio of district or municipal buildings.
  • Policies shape a city’s ability to achieve ZCB pathways. 
  • Even within these different policy contexts, ZCB pathways are feasible today, making a decarbonized building stock a target increasingly within reach for urban policymakers.


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