By Marco Villalobos
Mexico is responsible for 1.4% of total global GHG emissions (UNEP SBCI, 2009). Internationally, we have committed to reduce CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050; in line with the Paris Agreement to reduce global temperature increase to 2°C.
Globally, energy is the main contributor to climate change, accounting for about 60% of all global greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC, 2019); in Mexico, energy accounts for 70.4% of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, followed by livestock, 10.4%; industrial processes, 7.9%; waste, 6.7%, and aggregate sources, 4.5% (INEGyCEI, 2019).
The building sector, which includes housing, commercial and public sector buildings (including street lighting and water pumping) consumes a significant amount of energy and resources; in Mexico, 18% of the country's total energy, 34% of electricity, 33% to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and 26% of firewood (SENER, 2018) is consumed in buildings. In terms of greenhouse gases (GHG) it represents 20% of CO2 eq emissions and 20% of waste generated (INECC, 2010). In terms of the national economy and employment generation, the building sector has a leading role, since it represents 7.8% of the national GDP and generates 2,334,6596 jobs; given the size of this industry, building is one of the key pieces in the implementation of climate policies at the national level.
On the other hand, consumption is expected to increase by 40% in 2050 in an inertial manner (CONUEE, 2018) and an increase in electricity demand of up to 85% in the buildings sector (IEA), and in the housing sector electricity consumption is expected to double by 2040 (IEA).
However, Energy Efficiency in Buildings has proven to be the best low-cost measure to achieve national GHG reduction commitments. And not only that, several benefits have also been accounted for, for example, economic benefits: for every additional $1 USD invested in energy efficiency measures, more than $2 USD in energy supply investments are avoided; less pressure on national and household budgets; as social benefits we can list energy access, energy supply security, health and productivity improvements, job creation and, of course, environmental benefits: reduction of GHG emissions, sustainable building materials, water conservation, increased resilience to climate change and competitiveness in cities.
In terms of advances in energy efficiency in buildings, the country has 32 Mexican Official Standards (NOM), of which 15 are directly related to buildings, voluntary Mexican Standards (NMX) containing specifications on quality of products, processes and services; and the roadmap for energy efficiency, published in the DOF in 2018.
However, barriers to the mass implementation of these measures have been identified, to name a few: Few efficient building projects, perception of high costs in the local market for technologies and materials, few attractive business models for sustainable construction; generally, the interest of investors in the real estate sector is in reducing investment costs, without worrying about operating costs; There are few instruments for regulating construction at the local level with respect to efficient construction; sustainable projects do not have the political support that could facilitate their implementation, and the differentiated impact of climate change on women and men is often not analysed; social housing construction has been oriented towards quantity over quality, and so on, we could mention many more.
Despite its economic, social and environmental benefits, and its enormous potential in Mexico, energy efficiency remains underutilized due to political, technical and financial barriers. Commitments and long-term vision are required to successfully implement large-scale energy efficiency programs, match financing to local markets, and develop the right incentives.