Policy Guidelines for Securing the Future of Our Forests and Cities

bauhaus earth

The futures of global forests and cities are bound inextricably together. Today, cities deplete resources from the natural environment, consume land, and generate waste and emissions. However, if we manage to shift the way we build and design cities, the built environment has the potential to reverse climate change and restore forest health and stability while simultaneously meeting the growing demands of global urbanisation with bio-based materials.

Our Global Challenge

The building sector now accounts for 37 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions, and 21 per cent of total emissions. Meanwhile, the number of buildings is estimated to double worldwide by 2050. This new construction, if realised using “building as usual” methods, would generate up to 70 Gt of additional atmospheric CO2.

At the same time, industrial agriculture, natural and man-made disasters, and unsustainable forestry practices are putting our global forests under extreme pressure. Simply switching our building products to wood-based materials would only exacerbate these problems – what we need is a total shift in the way we think about resource extraction, consumption, reuse, and our relationship to the natural environment.

A Regenerative Future for Cities and Forests

Improved manufacturing of conventional materials like steel, glass, and concrete isn’t enough. At this point, simply decarbonising the urban building material palette will not reverse the building sector’s impact on our climate. A truly holistic overhaul of the construction sector must:

+ Replace a significant portion of carbon-intensive building material with regionally sourced, bio-based materials.

+ Incentivise investment in sustainable forest management, conservation, and expansion.

+ Establish equitable, low-carbon value chains that prioritise regional sourcing from forests and construction waste flows.

+ Ensure that these products remain in use and circulation over multiple building lifecycles.

+ Encourage urban densification and the control of the urban-wildland interface.

By thinking about forests and cities together, the construction sector can embrace the power of nature-based carbon capture. The built environment can become a force for climate restoration and biodiversity enhancement rather than a source of emissions, land consumption, and waste. In this way, we can rely on well-established and traditional methods instead of on unproven technological solutions with unknown side effects.

Policy Recommendations

In preparation for our activities at COP28 in December 2023, Bauhaus Earth, Built by Nature, and Pilot Projects created a set of policy recommendations for global leaders, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

To find out how these actors can bring about systemic change for our ecosystems and built environment, read our full policy recommendations.

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