A brief explanation of Climate change and Sustainability - Carbon Emissions Data

Updated: Apr 7


Climate change has been on the topics of agendas of political and industry leaders for the past 20 years with the aim of bringing general awareness to the public as well as promoting sustainable development in the form of policies and investment opportunities.

From a historical point of view, the first scientific concerns developed about the rising temperatures and the effects that climate change can have on our livelihood on earth were brought up in the 19th century when the greenhouse effect was first identified.

Excessive use of coal and burning fossil fuels because of the industrial revolution and the release of Greenhouse gases into the atmosphere has accelerated the destabilization of our atmosphere with the consequences of global temperatures rising in an uncontrolled way.

What is the DATA telling us?

Global average temperatures have increased by more than 1℃ since pre-industrial times

According to Our World in Data, 73.2 % of the global carbon dioxide equivalence (CO2e) was accounted for energy used in the industry which 17.5% was energy-related emissions from the generation of electricity and heat used in residential and commercial buildings.

Focusing on construction industry-specific, cement production accounted for a direct 3% and steel and iron production for 7.2% of the global emissions with energy-related emissions associated with the manufacturing of these products. In summary, the construction and manufacturing industries were responsible for 6.11 billion tCO2e, whereas the transport indirectly correlated with civil assets accounted for 7.7 billion tCO2e only second to Electricity & Heat-related emissions of 15 billion tCO2e as seen in Figures below.


Read more about Sustainability:

Designing buildings within Planetary Boundaries - 2050 Materials

Life cycle stages in Construction works as per BS EN 15978: 2011


Declarations to net-zero emissions and International Agreements History

The firsts modern history initiatives about international agreements in terms of battling climate change got firstly established in 1988 with the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The issue of climate change was viewed largely as a scientific concern and not as a political “problem” however after the production of the intergovernmental assessments created by the IPCC about the science, impacts, and response options of climate change, had the world leaders alerted about the issues.

In 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was established and entered into force in 2005 with 192 countries entering the agreement. This was the first time Greenhouse gasses (GHG) reduction targets were set for industrialized nations. Following, the agreement put in place the COP 21 Paris Agreement has set ambitious goals to keep temperatures well below 2 °C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. The agreement signed by 175 countries had as a requirement to submit comprehensive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which were essential interpreted as national climate change plans.

The Paris Rulebook, a detailed set of guidelines implementing the agreement was set in 2018 COP 24 in Poland and set to get legal action in 2020 (Hirst, 2020). A revised version of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of the European Union has set ambitious goals of policies to deliver by 2030 and at least 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as compared to 1990 levels (NDC, 2020).

The most recent COP 26 in Glasgow in 2020, the Nations agreed items include:

  • Strengthened efforts to build resilience to climate change

  • Curb greenhouse gas emissions and provide the necessary finance

  • Pledge of providing 100 billion dollars annually from developed to developing countries

  • Work to reduce the gap between existing emission reduction plans and what is required to reduce emissions, so that the rise in the global average temperature can be limited to 1.5 degrees.

  • Phase down unabated coal power and inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.

Source: The Glasgow Climate Pact – Key Outcomes from COP26

What are we doing about it?

Furthermore, the United Nations have released the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which urge for action by all countries to share a blueprint for “peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future” by the goals set for 2030. Nevertheless, the generality of the goals, Goals 9,11,12, and 13 have a direct and indirect relation to the infrastructure hence giving a lot of responsibility on the construction industry to take action and reduce carbon emissions

Are we running out of Time?