Decarbonising South Africa’s Buildings and Construction Sector

South Africa’s Buildings and Construction sector, which includes the operations of residential and commercial buildings, in addition to construction, accounts for approximately 7% (34 Mt CO2e) of South Africa’s direct emissions. In addition to the imperative to decarbonise, the sector also faces the dual challenges of ensuring physical resilience, as South Africa is forecast to be one of the region’s most severely impacted by climate change, and addressing severe housing inequality, with a shortfall of approximately 2.1 million homes and unequal access to public infrastructure, such as water and sanitation.

The report finds that decarbonising Buildings and Construction requires a two-fold approach. Firstly, demand reduction through improved spatial planning and reduced use of emissions-intensive materials, notably steel and cement. Secondly, supply-side measures such as a shift away from fossil fuel-based combustion for space and water heating and cooking through renewable energy-based electrification as well as energy efficiency levers (e.g., increased building insulation, heat pumps). Without action, the sector's emissions could double by 2050, making it challenging for South Africa to meet its climate targets.