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Accelerating Building Efficiency: Eight Actions for Urban Leaders

With buildings responsible for 32 percent of global energy consumption and a quarter of CO2 emissions, there is a huge, under-tapped opportunity to create more sustainable cities through building efficiency. More efficient buildings can generate economic benefits, reduce environmental impacts and improve people’s quality of life.

Developed in partnership with Johnson Controls, the report offers practical advice for city leaders, including eight clear and specific recommendations to unlock building efficiency. It presents a politically smart, common-sense approach that will help usher in a new era of better buildings suited for the 21st century.

Executive Summary

This guide provides local governments and other urban leaders in cities around the world with the background, guidance, and tools to accelerate building efficiency action in their communities. The primary intended audience is local government officials in urban areas.Efficient buildings—those that make highly productive use of natural resources—are vital to achieving sustainable development: They align economic, social, and environmental opportunities, creating so-called “triple bottom line” benefits.Economic development: Buildings are responsible for 32 percent of global energy consumption and one-quarter of global human-induced CO2 emissions.1 Energy costs can be a significant burden on a household or business budget. Increasing energy productivity through measures like building efficiency has the potential to slow the growth of energy demand in developing countries by more than half by 2020. Each additional $1 spent on energy efficiency avoids more than $2, on average, spent on energy supply investments.2 Building efficiency frees up capital for other strategic investments, helping city governments face multiple competing demands for scarce financial and human resources.3Social development: Current projections indicate that 66 percent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.4 Buildings form the fabric of our urban landscapes. There is a tremendous opportunity today to shape tomorrow’s cities and buildings and avoid “locking in” inefficiencies by applying resource efficient planning and design to buildings and the urban environment. In the coming decades, as these cities face rapid urbanization, buildings will play an ever-increasing role. Efficient buildings can help improve the quality of life of millions of people because they are often higher-quality buildings, with greater comfort and improved indoor and outdoor air quality. Energy efficiency can stretch existing electricity resources further, helping to provide better energy access, reliability, and security to urban residents.Environmental sustainability: A study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that, if implemented globally, energy efficiency measures in the building sector could deliver CO2 emissions savings as high as 5.8 billion tonnes (Gt) by 2050, lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 83 percent below the business-asusual scenario.5 Most of these technologies are commercially available today and many of them deliver positive financial returns within relatively short payback periods.

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