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A guide for incorporating buildings actions in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

  • Date:
  • Author(s)/Creator(s):
    Peter Graham
  • Publisher(s)/Producter(s):
    United Nations Environment Programme
    Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction

The buildings sector contributes nearly 40% to global energy-related annual GHG emissions (IEA/UNEP, 2018). Final energy demand from buildings is predicted to increase 50% by 2050 compared with 2015 levels under business as usual scenarios due to rapid urbanisation and the doubling of the built surface area. Effective decarbonization of the buildings sector is therefore critical to meeting the Paris Agreement Goals and exceeding the current level of ambition in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Only one-hundred and thirty-six (136) parties have referenced action required by the buildings and/or construction sector in their NDCs. Very few building sector actions included in these NDCs specify mitigation targets, and if fully implemented, currently cover only about 60% of building related GHG emissions (IEA/UNEP, 2018). Very few actions describe targets to move to carbon neutral or net-zero energy building performance, which is necessary for the sector to be on a below 2-degree pathway. Nor do they commonly communicate the potential co-benefits of proposed actions.

More work is needed to increase the coverage and ambition of building sector climate actions. The current scope and ambition of buildings sector commitments are therefore, insufficient to meet the Paris Agreement goals. It is also evident that there is no consistent format being used to describe buildings sector actions in NDCs. This means that it is difficult to assess the scope, ambition and potential effectiveness of Parties commitments. Developing a common format for describing and comparing buildings sector actions in NDCs is therefore necessary.

This guide is designed to address the urgent need for further extending the scope and ambition of building sector actions in NDCs, the opportunities for aligning with commitments made by non-party actors, and the renewed support for successively increasing ambition and implementing actions of NDCs. It provides a simple process for incorporating or updating ambitious and effective building sector actions in Nationally Determined Contributions. It focusses particularly on key actions that are necessary to address and overcome common challenges faced by countries in designing, financing and implementing ambitious and effective actions, and is intended to support the progressive updating of NDCs.

Building from existing policies and commitments, countries can extend the ambition of building sector actions by:

  • Increasing the scope of existing building energy regulations to include a greater proportion of building types, particularly housing, and to renovation projects;
  • Increasing energy performance standards for building envelopes, heating, cooling and ventilation systems, and appliances;
  • Integrate building sector actions with urban land-use planning to enable the decarbonisation opportunities of sustainable mobility choices, reducing urban heat-island effects, and providing scale for integration of distributed renewable energy supply.

This guide is structured around three stages for incorporating such ambitious and effective buildings sector GHG mitigation actions into NDCs: Mapping, Prioritizing and Implementing & Monitoring. Each section focuses on how to achieve ambitious and effective outcomes in the buildings sector. It also links with the evidence base on building sector actions, tools and resources offered by GlobalABC member organisations.


UN Enviroments
Policy Quality
Greenhouse gas mitigation
Sustainable building design and construction
Energy policy
Energy efficiency
Building energy codes
Energy consumption
low carbon building technologies
Greenhouse gases
Paris Agreement