Our commitment to efficient, sustainable buildings – new and old

Our buildings help define our cities – from our iconic skylines to our historic architecture. They are where our citizens, live, work, study and play. These buildings are also one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for over half of total city emissions on average, and a significant source of air pollution. Currently, half a million people die each year due to outdoor air pollution caused by energy used in buildings. Delivering on the goals of the Paris Agreement, which science tells us we must, requires urgent and dramatic action to cut emissions from buildings.

Net zero carbon buildings are green and healthy buildings. They use energy ultra-efficiently and are supplied by renewables. They are comfortable homes where money isn’t wasted on energy bills, productive workplaces insulated from extreme temperatures, and healthy schools free from dirty air. 

Action is needed today, because most buildings will be standing for generations to come. Missing this opportunity locks in the problem for our children and grandchildren, but delivering on this commitment will provide benefits for our citizens to enjoy long into the future. From lower energy bills for all, including our most vulnerable citizens, to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air, the positive impacts of action are undeniable. 

As mayors we are determined to lead the way. Yet we alone cannot transform the buildings, great and small, historic and new, in our cities. We will introduce regulations or planning policies for net zero carbon buildings where possible within our power and authority. We want to work with state and regional governments, who also play a crucial role in setting standards for buildings, and we welcome the leadership of those who have already committed to net zero carbon buildings. The private sector is another essential player in creating green and healthy buildings. We congratulate the businesses that have signed the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Building Commitment, and welcome them to our cities. We look forward to our collective commitment inspiring the same level of ambition and action from national governments, who play a critical role in setting standards for buildings.

To ensure that our cities deliver on the highest ambition of the Paris Agreement and develop the net zero carbon buildings of the future, we pledge to enact regulations and/or planning policy to ensure new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030 and all buildings by 2050.  

To meet this commitment, we will: 

  • Establish a roadmap for our commitment to reach net zero carbon buildings.
  • Develop a suite of supporting incentives and programmes.
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting our targets, and evaluate the feasibility of reporting on emissions beyond operational carbon (such as refrigerants).

Additionally, in many of our cities, our municipal or government buildings represent a significant proportion of our building emissions, and they offer a large opportunity for rapid action. We can use them to pilot innovations, build capacity in our local markets, and inspire others to follow our leadership.

We commit to owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net zero carbon in operation by 2030

To meet this commitment, we will: 

  • Evaluate the current energy demand and carbon emissions from our municipal buildings, and identify opportunities for reduction.
  • Establish a roadmap for our commitment to reach net zero carbon municipal buildings.
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting our targets, and evaluate the feasibility of including emissions beyond operational carbon (such as refrigerants).

Signatory cities:

Cape Town, Cali, Copenhagen, Durban, Heidelberg, Helsinki, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Medellin, Melbourne, Montreal, New York City, Oslo, Paris, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Stockholm, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Tshwane, Valladolid, Vancouver, Washington DC, Newburyport, San Jose, Santa Monica
* (cities in bold are also signatories to the additional municipal buildings commitment)

Cities interested in joining the accelerator can get in touch via action@c40.org.