To answer the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recommendation for zero global carbon emissions by 2050 (with an ultimate goal to limit warning below 1.5C), we must decarbonise standing buildings as soon as possible and at a regular pace.

To this end, eight major European cities have made a solid pledge to decarbonize their standing building stocks by 2050. And, as a part of the World Building Council’s Build Upon2, these communities will develop, implement and test a multi-level renovation impact framework—with progress indicators featuring improved health, the creation of jobs and emissions reductions.

The eight pledged cities are Velika Gorica, Croatia, Budaörs, Hungary, Dublin, Ireland, Padova, Italy, Wroclaw, Poland, Madrid, Spain, Eskisehir, Turkey, and Leeds, UK.

As they set this planned framework into motion, focus cities will collect localised results data to lobby for national policymakers everywhere to establish comparable net-zero goal legislation for their buildings; thus proving the feasibility of net zero goals for the urban built environment.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment, launched in September 2018, now boasts more than 50 signatures. And the Net Zero Status Report lists the recent development of nine new net zero carbon certification plans from France, Canada, Brazil, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Sweden, India, USA, and two frameworks from the UK and the Netherlands.

A product of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), the UK net zero carbon certification framework—part of the UKGBC’s own Advancing Net Zero program–aims to educate the industry in regards to the achievement of net zero carbon in construction and operation. The work of a task group of industry stakeholders, it is a free resource for use by designers, owners, policy makers, building developers and occupiers.

And in Brusells, EU heads of state are expected to determine a strategic agenda on this manner. In addition, energy ministers will soon determine the future of energy systems in the Energy Union, as well as Europe’s external energy relations.

On a related note, the Eurima (the European Insulation Manufacturers Association) is calling for immediate action on massive building regulation and renovations at the legislative level—to ensure healthier, more skillfully constructed buildings.

Eurima’s answering action plan, Better Buildings for a Better Future, calls for the establishment of a building renovation fund to leverage funds required for energy efficiency investments in buildings, ensuring the renovations needed to make for better, healthier structures.

And at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum in Washington, the US Alliance to Save Energy started a new global coalition to promote energy efficiency. In Tokyo, a G20 energy efficiency conference also addressed this topic.

These are all noble efforts, to be sure. Yet with less than 400 buildings currently certified as net zero carbon, they are but sustainable bricks lining a path that is a long, long way from its intended destination.