India can cut emissions from its buildings to half by 2050 to meet net-zero target

With India's ambitious COP27 climate goals, new report proposes solutions and cross-cutting collaborative solutions to transform the buildings sector

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In the lead up to the 27th Annual UN climate talks — COP27 — NIUA (National Institute of Urban Affairs) and RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute) have released a new report, From the Ground Up, that provides a novel whole-system approach to reduce energy and emissions from India’s built environment.

Emissions from buildings are projected to multiply four times by 2050. By implementing a whole-system approach, the emissions intensity of building operations could be reduced by 45% by 2030. The total buildings emissions could be reduced by 75% by 2050 as opposed to a business-as-usual scenario. This could be accomplished by following a pathway that first reduces energy needs, then serves the needs as efficiently as possible, and finally optimises the demand and provides clean energy supply.

Hitesh Vaidya, Director of NIUA launched the report. “We are standing at a crucial juncture in India’s growth stage where urban migration and development are occurring at a rapid pace,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to build right the first time. I call upon building material manufacturers, building developers, equipment manufacturers, NGOs, and policymakers to come together and collaborate on achieving the ambitious climate targets set by our Honourable Prime Minister.”

The report was developed following a yearlong extensive research and supportive analysis conducted in collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The near-term, high-priority actions outlined can reduce energy consumption while improving thermal comfort and productivity, increasing resilience, and reducing investments in energy supply infrastructure. Earlier this year, NIUA and RMI organised a stakeholder convening to deliberate on the solutions proposed in this report.

Clay Stranger, Managing Director, RMI, said, “Many solutions already exist, and experts across government, academia, and the private sector have been contributing to this critical conversation through efforts on energy codes, buildings ratings, product efficiency, and more. The need of the hour is to integrate these efforts and amplify our impact in order to meet our common environmental, economic, and social goals.”