The 2015 Paris Climate Conference, also known as COP 21, was a big, news-making event, with the world’s attention mostly focused on global leaders’ plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil fuels. But for the first time in the UNFCC’s conference history, green building had its day at the conference, too.

Why talk about buildings at a conference about climate change? According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), buildings are responsible for more than 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and if growth continues unchecked, emissions could double by 2050. The buildings sector has to reduce emissions by eighty-four gigatons, the emissions equivalent of 22,000 coal powered plants, by the year 2050 to do it’s part to keep the earth from warming to two degrees Celsius.

The buildings sector also offers one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce energy use and emissions, and many paths to success already exist but need to be refined or implemented on a larger scale. This makes green building one of the best ways for countries to achieve their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC’s), and forty countries have already specifically cited green building as one of the ways they can meet their INDC’s. Buildings also last a long time, and a new construction project will become the housing stock of the future. Building environmentally unfriendly today locks in problematic housing for tomorrow.

As part of the conference, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) announced that it plans to scale up to support the certification of more than five billion square feet of green building over the next five years with LEED and EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies), a green building certification program for developing countries. The USGBC also committed to expanding worldwide educational resources for green building and to double non-English offerings.

All seventy-four national Green Building Councils support the commitment to achieve Net Zero carbon building and energy-efficient refurbishment of existing housing stock by 2050. Twenty-five Green Building councils made the commitment to register, renovate, or certify 1.25 billion square meters of green building by 2020. And three national green building councils made the commitment to introduce Net Zero certification.

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