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How construction can help India’s Climate Change Pledge?

Table of Contents for How Construction can help India’s Climate Change Pledge

  1. Background of UN Climate Change Conference
    1. Kyoto Protocol
    1. Paris Agreement
    1. NDC of Major Countries & India
  2. How much construction sector contributes to climate change?
  3. How can the construction sector keep the India’s climate change pledge?
  4. Conclusion

At COP26 Glasgow-2021, India pledged to turn carbon neutral by 2070. In this article, we shall explore the role of the construction sector in climate change. Also, the changes required in the construction sector for sustainable development.

Background of UN Climate Change Conference

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat was established in 1992. It had the vision to provide a global framework to tackle climate change. It has 197 countries as a participant. It is the parent treaty of two major treaties-

Kyoto Protocol, 1997

Kyoto protocol was adopted in 1997. However, due to the complex ratification process, it came into force in 2005. It binds the developed and developing countries to limit their greenhouse gas emissions as per their respective targets. The Kyoto protocol works on the principle of differentiated responsibility as per the country’s capabilities. To explain, more capable countries have higher responsibilities.

The Kyoto Protocol was amended in Doha, 2012, and the target for actions was set for 2013-2020. However, the amendment hasn’t been in force to date.

Paris Agreement, 2015

UN website describes the Paris agreement as a “legally binding international treaty on climate change”. The agreement was adopted in December 2015 but came into force in November 2016.

The Paris agreement aims to limit global warming by 2 degrees Celsius (preferably 1.5) compared to pre-industrial levels. The countries to achieve carbon-neutrality by mid-century.

All the participants shall plan and execute their climate change actions in a 5-year cycle. They shall also declare their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). An NDC shall typically contain the greenhouse emission limit roadmap, carbon neutrality, and adaptation to climate change.

NDC of Major Countries & India’s Climate Change Pledge

Total 132 countries have pledged net-zero achievement by 2050.

The USA to go carbon neutral by 2050. It shall spend $550Bn to boost renewable power and electric vehicle. Also, the USA has the highest carbon emission per capita.

China to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. It is the largest carbon emitter.

Russia to achieve net-zero by 2060. It is the fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter.

European Union to achieve net-zero targets by 2050.

India pledged 5, targets in Glasgow, 2021

  • Net-zero carbon emission by 2070. India is the 4th largest carbon emitter.
  • India will reduce the carbon intensity by 45% by 2030. The target was 35% in 2015.
  • India to boost the renewable energy sector. By 2030, renewable energy shall contribute 50% of the energy demand. As of 30-Sept-2021, India generates 39.8% of the total power through renewable sources.
  • The projected carbon emission is to be reduced by one billion tonnes by 2030. At present, India accounts for 17% of the carbon emission and is at 4th position after US, China & EU.
  • The non-fossil energy generation capacity shall be 500 GW by 2030. At present (30 September 2021), the non-fossil energy generation stands at 154.8 GW.
Vulnerability Profile of Indian States to the Climate Change. Source- Climate Vulnerability Assessment

How much construction sector contributes to climate change?

Let us understand how does construction deteriorate the environment. Later, we shall discuss the remedial measures for curbing carbon emissions in construction.

The UN’s Global Status Report for Buildings & Construction-2021 states that the construction sector consumes 36% of the final energy. Among the Asian counties, China consumes 49%, India consumes 25%, and the ASEAN countries consume 23% of the total power of Asia.

Moreover, 37% of the total carbon emission is due to construction. The data includes the production of building materials and power generation. However, the construction sector contribution has decreased due to the Corona Virus Pandemic in 2020. In 2019, the construction sector carbon emission was 40%.

Sectoral share in energy consumption and emissions.
Challenges to India's Climate Change Pledge
Sectoral share in energy consumption and emissions. Source- GABC

The emissions intensity per square meter of the building has reduced by 17.2% from 2015-2020. Similarly, the energy intensity per square meter is down by 5.7% in the same period.

Change in building key parameters from 2015 to 2020.
Changes in Buildings from 2015-20. Source- GABC

As per the World Green building Council, around one-fourth of the construction caused emissions are due to raw material production. The energy consumption of the buildings causes three-fourth of the building caused emissions.

The building materials, namely cement, steel, bricks, lime and glass, contribute the maximum percentage of the raw material production-based carbon emissions.

How can the construction sector keep the India’s climate change pledge?

The main aim of the construction sector should be a reduction in carbon emissions and make the buildings more resilient. It shall reduce the sector’s percentage in total emission. Moreover, being the leading contributor to carbon emission, the scope of emission reduction is also the largest. The steps to reduce carbon emission are suggested below and have been compiled from various sources.

Decarbonisation of Buildings stands at 5.5% in 2019-20 against the plan of 17.3%. It is a great problem to tackle for India' climate change pledge compliance.
Decarbonisation of Buildings stands at 5.5% in 2019-20 against the plan of 17.3%. Source- GABC

Reduction in Wastage

The wastage reduction has become a KPI for construction companies. The operational optimisation has led to better material management. Further, efforts are under progress in utilising the wastage to the benefit of the company.

In addition, lesser wastage results in lesser consumption. Consequently, lesser production and lesser production-based emission.

Building Life-Cycle Assessment

A life-cycle assessment is a method to assess the lifetime environmental impact of raw material. The method includes material sourcing, processing, manufacturing, distribution, usage and final disposal.

The environmental impact of the material may include carbon emission, ozone depletion, eutrophication, effect on human health.

Recyclable Materials

The demand for recyclable construction material is on the rise. However, the consumption of recycled material is still insufficient to help the carbon neutrality goal by 2050.

In G7 countries the recycled materials are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14-18% by 2050.

Tax on virgin materials and removing subsidies on the same shall further promote the use of recycled materials.

Easy availability and disposal of recycled materials shall promote the circular economy.

Alternate & Sustainable Materials

The usage of materials has lower lifetime carbon emissions. India may potentially reduce carbon emission by 50-70% by 2050 by using alternate and recycled materials.

Additionally, alternate and sustainable materials should also be resilient enough to handle extreme weather.

The cement and steel companies are adopting methods to reduce their energy consumption and their carbon footprints. A waste heat recovery system is one such technology that generates energy by waste heat.

Furthermore, eco-friendly OPC cement alternatives are under development. For example, Calcium Sulpho Aluminate (CSA) Cement, and geopolymers. Also, an aggregate replacement shall reduce the mining of the same. Therefore aggregate alternatives like paper pulp, waste plastic, broken glass, rubber tires etc. are under development.

Learn how bamboo is an alternative to steel reinforcement.

Reduction in Material Use

The reduction in material use shall help also. The high strength building materials bear the same loads with lesser quantities. It can save 8-10% in G7 countries by 2050.

Also, retrofitting and rehabilitation are methods to reduce material consumption as compared to the new construction. These methods are cost-efficient and increase the building life.

Energy Efficient Design of Buildings

To achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, more than 85% of the buildings should have net zero-emission. In contrast, at present, lesser than 1% of the buildings are carbon neutral.

An energy-efficient building utilises natural sources of energy and consumes lesser power. Subsequently, the energy-efficient design takes maximum benefit of solar energy and recycles the waste.

Moreover, building energy certifications like LEED should be promoted. Policies promoting and encouraging energy efficiency shall result in higher adoption.

Overhaul of Building Cooling & Heating Systems

The UN report indicates that building heating and cooling systems consume a significant amount of energy. Therefore, the adoption of more energy-efficient systems shall decrease the power demand. Also, Heat Insulation systems designed for buildings reduce the energy consumption for heating and cooling.

Energy usage pattern in buildings from 2010 to 2020
Energy Consumption in Buildings. Source- GABC

Conclusion

Extensive research and data are required to reach a mutual agreement on the most efficient eco-friendly methods. Further, not a single technology shall be agreed upon. But a combination of many such technologies needs to be adopted for a better world.

Moreover, the policies should include educating the people about eco-friendly technologies. For the same, the development of standards and codes are necessary for guidance. Also, businesses should get incentives to adopt green technologies. And a culture of the circular economy needs encouragement.

On a separate note, check our project planning template for building.

Estimate the preliminary cost of building with this excel template.

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