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COP28: Key Takeaways and A Preview Into What Is Next

December 2023
Sheena Sood and Natasha Anwar

At the heart of the COP28 climate summit which recently took place in Dubai, the construction industry stood at a pivotal juncture, recognising the urgent need to redefine building standards in the era of climate change. As stewards of a sector responsible for a significant portion of global carbon emissions (approximately 40%), industry leaders and stakeholders convened to deliberate on transformative and innovate strategies. A central focus was the shift towards sustainable, energy efficient and regenerative construction practices. This shift is both a response to environmental imperatives and a strategic move to align evolving societal expectations and global commitments.

At the COP28 climate summit, the conference began with a strong funding pledge for loss and damage mechanisms and ended with a historic agreement to transition away from fossil fuels. The summit is seen as an opportunity to set out ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NCDs) compatible with the Paris Agreement and recognise the built environment’s role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Over 350 industry leaders in the building and construction sector signed an Open Letter at COP28, demanding regulatory change to tackle the climate crisis. The letter highlights the sectors potential contribution to social equity and financial prosperity beyond reducing emissions. Importantly, the letter stressed the need for strong political leadership, commitment to integrating building codes and sub-national policy in NDCs, doubling energy efficiency improvements, and tripling renewable energy capacity by 2023.

Infrastructure and Green Buildings

In 2022, the building and construction sector accounted for 34% of all energy-related CO2 emissions. Initiatives like the Buildings Breakthrough, launched by the government of France and Morocco with the UN Environment Programme, signify the need for a more structured approach to the infrastructure sector’s net zero transition. Launched in COP28, this initiative will see 27 countries including the UK, working collaboratively to decarbonise the building sector and make clean technologies and sustainable solutions the most affordable and accessible option to all regions by 2030.

Furthermore, there was a significant focus on green building standards from a construction perspective. At the summit, architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed a pavilion to demonstrate green building methods. The pavilion was a symbol of unity and inclusivity, combining low-tech and high-tech solutions for buildings that are scalable and transferable worldwide. It included the use of 7,000 bricks made of recycled waste from the construction industry and FSC-certified timber. These materials represented sustainable building methods with lower embodied carbon.

Agreements were made to triple renewable power and generation capacity to 11,000 GW and double energy efficiency this decade. 50 oil and gas companies pledged to reach near-zero methane emissions by 2030. These ambitious targets have implications on the construction industry, particularly in terms of building energy-efficient structures and integrating renewable energy sources in the immediate future.

Additionally, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) highlighted the critical need for policymakers to revisit their commitments and transition to energy-efficient, regenerative and equitable building practices. It emphasised how buildings account for almost 40% of global energy-related carbon emissions. As a major contributor, the industry has the potential to mobilise and scale solutions for a future that is energy-efficient and regenerative. The World GBC network, which includes over 75 Green Building Councils, is ready to assist governments in updating Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in an effort to assist in decarbonising buildings.

Systematic Change Within Industries

COP28 saw a cross-sectoral collaboration signifying a shift towards systematic and integrated change. Several industries are actively seeking to utilise more carbon-neutral technologies and systems. For example, the ports and shipping industry are striving to electrify their port systems and work together to explore hybrid fuel systems for international shipping.

Discussions at the summit particularly focused on addressing the decarbonisation of the oil and gas sector, with a clear focus on setting practical, ambitious targets and fostering collaborative efforts across sectors. The Oil and Gas Decarbonisation Charter was introduced as a major initiative to accelerate climate action within the oil and gas sector. It aims to bring the industry in line with the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. The Charter focuses on net-zero targets for 2050, the investment in future energy systems including renewable and low-carbon fuels, and enhanced transparency in greenhouse gas emission measurements and reporting. Moving forward, alliances, industry-wide efforts and large-scale change will act as a catalyst for achieving net zero.

To target industries such as cement, steel, aluminium, as well as transport sectors like shipping and aviation, the Industrial Transition Accelerator (ITA) was created. This ITA initiative is crucial as these sectors collectively represent a significant portion of global emissions. The goal is to foster collaboration amongst policymakers, financial institutions, and experts to scale decarbonisation projects efficiently.

Agreements and Discussions

COP28 concluded with an agreement signalling the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era, focusing on a just and equitable transition supported by emission cuts and scaled-up finance. The transition will see a tripling of renewable energy capacity and doubling energy efficiency by 2030.

From a construction perspective, the developments at COP28 are influential as the shift towards a low-carbon economy and the emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency will likely lead to changes in building practices and materials. It is likely that the construction industry will continue to see a focus on sustainable technologies, energy efficiency designs and the use of renewable energy sources in construction projects.

The financial commitments and policies agreed upon could provide new opportunities for the construction sector to innovate and contribute to climate-resilient infrastructure, specifically in developing countries who are most significantly impacted by climate change.


In essence, the COP28 summit marks a watershed moment for the construction industry, signalling a more aggressive and committed journey towards sustainability. The discussions and resolutions formed at the summit lay down a roadmap for a future where buildings are not merely structures but instead, embodiments of environmental stewardship, social responsibility and energy efficiency. The construction industry holds the key to unlock meaningful change in the reduction of carbon emissions. As the industry moves forward, the collaborative efforts of governments, industries, the World Green Building Council, and industry members will be fundamental in transforming these ambitious visions into concrete realities.

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