By Lerato Kumalo, ESG & Impact Officer
The construction industry’s role in exacerbating climate change by adding to global warming and intensifying carbon emissions is undeniable. This issue is compounded by the ongoing urbanization driven by an ever-growing global population.
The escalating global population is giving impetus to the construction sector, magnifying its impact on economies and the environment alike.
Research reveals that in 2021, the buildings and construction sector accounted for around 37% of energy- and process-related CO2 emissions and over 34% of energy demand globally. The industry is accountable for almost half of all worldwide material extraction, and according to the World Economic Forum, is responsible for nearly one-third of all waste generated globally, more than two-thirds of which is discarded without further recovery and reuse.
Delving deeper into the root causes of emissions within the industry, it becomes apparent that energy-intensive production processes for materials such as cement, steel, and glass, coupled with the transportation of these resources to construction sites, is a significant contributor. Notably, concrete production alone is responsible for over 8% of global CO2 emissions, surpassing those from the aviation industry.
The 2022 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction estimates that the building and construction sector of Africa is worth USD 5.4 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 6.4% by 2024. In a local context, Nigeria is projected to grow at a rate of 2% until 2027, this is also supported by the National Development Plan (NDP) that has been in place from 2021 and will continue to be in place until 2025.
The NDP is also expected to generate 21 million full time jobs for the Nigerian population. However, sustaining this growth necessitates the implementation of pragmatic measures to combat carbon emissions.
Embracing sustainable and energy-efficient construction practices is paramount. Companies such as PPC Limited have publicly stated that they are committed to reducing carbon emissions through the implementation of energy efficient initiatives in building projects.
The upcoming COP28 conference, to be hosted in the UAE between 30 November and 12 December this year, is expected to be a defining juncture for steering the industry’s course toward environmental responsibility.
Adam Ralph, UAE Country Manager at Turner & Townsend, succinctly notes, that decarbonization is no longer an option but an urgent business imperative necessitating a transformative shift within the industry.
Recent findings by Turner & Townsend concerning the Middle East’s construction industry, spotlight mounting pressure to prioritize sustainability and strive toward net-zero objectives. The impending COP28 conference promises to catalyse these changes within the Gulf region.
Global consensus dictates the imperative to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a goal essential for honouring the Paris Agreement’s mission of restricting temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
It is reassuring that while we acknowledge the devastating impact the construction industry has on climate change, glimpses of hope emerge through the adoption of sustainable building practices. These “green” methodologies encompass energy-efficient designs, integration of renewable energy sources, and the use of sustainable or recycled materials, all aimed at shrinking the sector’s environmental footprint.
It is for these reasons that Novare recently announced a significant investment in rooftop photovoltaic (PV) panels as an eco-friendly and renewable energy source to curb carbon emissions across our African property portfolio and strengthen our sustainability drive.
The first phase of this solar project focuses on Matola Mall, one of Novare’s retail properties in Mozambique, in collaboration with Enteria Moçambique. The agreement includes the supply and installation of 777.84kWp photovoltaic panels and eight solar inverters, generating 1,159,042kWh of sustainable energy annually.
This clean energy solution is projected to save over 5 million MZN per year in energy costs and will help offset negative emissions stemming from backup diesel generators on-site. Already, 13.5 tons of CO2 savings have been realised in just one month of the system’s operation.
This move aligns with the broader sustainability strategy for our property portfolio, which also includes ultimately obtaining Edge certification for all our properties, particularly following the successful award of this prestigious green building certification for the Novare Great North Mall and Standard Chartered head office buildings in Lusaka, Zambia.
This investment marks the first of its kind in Mozambique, making Novare a pioneer in implementing renewable energy solutions for commercial buildings on this scale in the country.
This move forms an integral part of our sustainability strategy, aiming to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the property portfolio across sub-Saharan Africa, and contribute to the global drive for Net-Zero emissions and ultimately working towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
However, to meet this objective, it is not the construction industry’s responsibility alone but a collaborative effort from all industry stakeholders.
Policymakers at all levels must implement effective tools for emission reduction while promoting sustainable and resilient development. Industry and finance leaders must invest in innovative solutions for rapid decarbonization. And civil society engagement is also vital for driving essential change.