07 June 2017

Building Energy Efficiency Can Play Outsized Role In NDC Implementation

China’s largest wind turbine facility, the Dabancheng Wind Power Station. Photo by Dan Lundberg/Flickr

Buildings currently account for a third of global energy use. That share will grow as populations urbanize and cities expand, and as increased incomes spur demand for services like air conditioning and computers.

As part of the NDC Partnership’s Expert Perspective series, Meredydd Evans of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has published a new paper to help Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) implementation by outlining successful approaches to building energy efficiency and three essential elements to NDC implementation.

Most countries have tremendous opportunities to lock in significant cost savings and significant emissions reductions through building energy efficiency investments and NDCs implementation. Evans cites that 53 countries representing 63 percent of global building energy consumption mention building energy efficiency in their NDCs – from large countries like China and the U.S. to smaller countries like Afghanistan and Ivory Coast.

According to Evans, these strategies span multiple approaches other nations can emulate including energy codes, appliance standards, efficiency resource standards, rating systems, renovation targets, and consumption goals – in fact many countries already aim to require net-zero energy buildings in their codes by 2040.

However, differences in construction rates and building lifespans mean a successful approach in one country may not work for another: Construction is booming in Asia and buildings have 30-40 year lifespans, but European buildings tend to last 100 years or more. In this example, building codes are critical in Asia but retrofit policies tend to dominate in Europe.

Despite these differences, the paper outlines three common elements that are essential to achieving climate targets through building energy efficiency initiatives:

  • Essential Element #1 – The role of coordination: Coordination is essential for strong NDC implementation: National ministries develop the NDC and implementation plans, but local governments have a much larger construction oversight and policy implementation role. NDC implementation plans can match climate financing and national understanding with local needs through policy changes like performance contracting, modifying budget rules, input from the private sector, developing building codes, and creating ongoing mechanisms for coordination.
  • Essential Element #2 – Adopting new policies: Coordination can smooth the path for new policies and implementation, but adoption requires concerted efforts to overcome jurisdiction, expense, and implementation challenges. In most cases, robust planning and adequate funding ahead of policy adoption can help overcome these barriers.
  • Essential Element #3 – Robust implementation: Countries must also work systematically at implementation to achieve high compliance and energy savings levels. Strategies to improve implementation include consistently reviewing building plans and conducting checks during construction, using third parties for building energy code checks, providing training and tools, and appliance labeling.

For more information about the role of building efficiency can play in NDC implementation, and details on the strategies countries are already deploying to meet download “Building Energy Efficiency and the Nationally Determined Contributions,” completed by Meredydd Evans for the NDC Partnership.

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