Systematic map of determinants of buildings’ energy demand and CO2 emissions shows need for decoupling
É Mata, J Wanemark, S H Cheng, E Ó Broin, M Hennlock and A Sandvall
Buildings are responsible for a major share of global final energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. An analysis of the worldwide observed drivers of demand can highlight the policy actions most suited to drive the decarbonization of the building sector. To contribute to such an analysis, we carry out a mapping of the literature on determinants of energy demand and CO2 emissions from buildings. The work includes a list and classification of relevant studies in an on-line geographical map, a description of trends and gaps, and a narrative review. We identify 4080 articles in the Scopus and the Web of Science databases, of which 712 are relevant after screening at the title and abstract level, and 376 are included for data extraction. The literature base mostly addresses electricity and water use, in North America and Europe (57% of the literature) and Asia (27%). Econometric modeling approaches using panel data to calculate demand elasticities, dominate. These findings highlight gaps in terms of the studied variables (only 5% focus on CO2 emissions while a mere 1% have a lifecycle perspective), geographical scope (only 5% of the articles focus on Africa, 7% on Latin America and the Caribbean, and 5% on Oceania), and methodological approach (only 5% use qualitative methods). We confirm that worldwide, income, energy price and outdoor temperature are unequivocal drivers of buildings energy demand and CO2 emissions, followed by other indicators of scale such as population or heated floor area. Our analysis makes it clear that decoupling from rising wealth levels has not been observed. This will continue to challenge reductions in energy use and CO2 emissions from buildings in line with climate targets. Macroeconomic policies focusing on the impacts of income, energy price, population and growing floor area are needed in combination with technical policy to reduce the impact of outdoor climate.
Citation: Mata É, J Wanemark, S H Cheng, E Ó Broin, M Hennlock and A Sandvall. (2021). Systematic map of determinants of buildings’ energy demand and CO2 emissions shows need for decoupling. Environmental Research Letters.