Buildings use more than one-third of the world’s energy, most of it for heating spaces and water. Most of this heat is generated by burning natural gas, oil, or propane. And where these fossil fuels are consumed, greenhouse gas emissions are a given.
Electric heat pumps, first widely used in the 1970s in Europe, could be the best solution to cut that fossil fuel use. They could slash the carbon emissions of buildings by half. And if powered by renewables, emissions can potentially go down to zero.
Cutting carbon emissions from heating and cooling will be critical to keep global average temperatures from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Already, anthropogenic climate change has caused average global temperatures to rise by approximately 1 degree C, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At the United Nations Climate Action Summit next week in New York, world leaders will discuss concrete steps to meet climate targets.