According to the International Energy Agency, buildings are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and account for over half of a total city’s emissions on average (in London, Los Angeles and Paris, buildings account for well over 70% of the cities’ overall emissions). In addition, half a million people die prematurely each year due to outdoor air pollution caused by energy used in buildings. Thus, there is an enormous opportunity for energy efficiency improvements. In this context, Helen Clarkson, head of The Climate Group, said: “Buildings are a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, so to meet reductions set out in the Paris Agreement, it’s critical that we tackle this problem.”

In order to contribute towards achieving a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, majors of Copenhagen, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Portland, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Stockholm, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Tshwane, Vancouver & Washington D.C., representing 130 million urban citizens, signed the Net Zero Carbon Building Declaration. They pledged to ensure that new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and to ensure that all buildings in the cities, old or new, will meet net-zero carbon standards by 2050. It is worth mentioning that this commitment is part of the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Building Commitment for Businesses, Cities, States and Regions

Karin Wanngård, Mayor of Stockholm, said: “Stockholm has a long history of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and we’re always looking at new ways to reduce our city’s carbon footprint. Most important for buildings is the decarbonisation of our city-wide district heating system, and strict requirements on energy efficiency.”

By pledging to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings, cities are moving the world community another step closer to the goals of the Paris Agreement, however, delivering on the commitments will require a united effort and cooperation with state and regional governments as well as the private sector to drive this ambitious transformation. In particular, cities will develop a suite of supporting incentives and programmes. Progress towards meeting the targets will be annually reported and evaluated.