The residential, commercial, and institutional buildings sector accounted for about one-third of the global energy used in 1990 and roughly one-third of the associated CO2 emissions. The sector's share of energy consumption is higher in developed countries than in developing and transition countries. Energy is used to heat and cool buildings, and to provide lighting, as well as services ranging from cooking to computers. The emissions from the building sector includes those from the direct use of fossil fuels in buildings, and emissions from the fuels used to furnish electricity and heat to buildings. About two-thirds of these emissions were from residences; the other one-third from commercial and institutional buildings (Watson et. al. 1996a). The achievable reductions below baseline projections are estimated at 10-15% in 2010, 15-20% in 2020, and 20-50% in 2050, relative to the IS92 scenarios.
To achieve these reductions requires technology transfer programmes that work rapidly and effectively to diffuse the best environmentally sound technologies (ESTs). The buildings sector is more atomistic and decentralised than the industrial, energy, and transportation sectors, making it more difficult to transfer technology and transform markets. The most successful government-driven pathways include (mandatory) energy and environmental standards for new buildings and equipment; information, education and labelling programs; and government-supported research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) programmes. Governments also have a key role in creating a market environment for successful private sector-driven technology transfer through decisions on financing, taxes, regulations, and customs and duties. Governments, particularly local governments, can encourage successful community programmes by proactively identifying community-level needs, and by encouraging and responding to community initiatives.
In the near term, the most successful technology transfer programmes will not be driven by their environmentally sound benefits alone, but because they also meet other human needs and desires. Examples include new energy-efficient buildings that are more comfortable and provide more services, yet have lower energy costs and lower greenhouse gase (GHG) emissions. The most successful technology programmes focus on new products and techniques that have multiple benefits.
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