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Decarbonizing buildings: An effective solution for mitigating the climate crisis in Africa

decarbonizing buildings - climateaction

Decarbonizing buildings: An effective solution for mitigating the climate crisis in Africa

The building sector accounts for an astonishing 38% of carbon emissions globally.

These emissions come from various sources, with the first being direct emissions from the use of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas in buildings. On the other hand, there are indirect emissions from the use of electricity and commercial heat consumed in buildings.

Also, emissions come from the extraction, manufacturing, and transportation of construction materials, and also from building renovation.

For Africa to mitigate the deepening climate crisis, homes and buildings must be decarbonized and this can be achieved by removing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy use of buildings via building efficiency and integrating clean energy-powered appliances into buildings.

For buildings that are already using appliances that are being powered by fossil fuels, those appliances can be converted to already available technologies that are powered by renewable electricity.

However, this may be difficult to pull off in Africa because it is still far behind in the transition to carbon-free renewable electricity and innovation. Although decarbonizing buildings may require huge changes in structures and the way people live in them, it is not impossible.

The focus should be on ending emissions from old buildings and avoiding new emissions in order to improve energy efficiency and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Existing houses need efficiency improvements while new housing requires scaling low-carbon supply chains around the world, from material supply through efficient design, construction, and operation in diverse global contexts.

We need to take a holistic approach and tackle each step of the building’s life cycle to reduce all of these emissions. This does not only have the potential to improve the living and working conditions of people but also save the building owners and occupants money because of their energy efficiency.

Finally, because land use and transportation emissions are linked, all housing innovations should focus on denser, multi-use communities that reduce the need to travel by car.

Beyond setting aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, the governments of the continent need to show clear leadership and take coordinated actions that are directed at eliminating key barriers and aligning the value propositions of all stakeholders.

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