Reducing greenhouse emissions is key for Somalia’s growing buildings amid worsening climate change

MOGADISHU – In Somalia, building infrastructure has increased and has become booming in recent years. This is due to the revival of the country’s economy and return of diaspora back to the country.

After years of fierce gunbattles and continuous displacement of residents, the impact of an upturn in economic activity is now easy to discern in Mogadishu, the country’s capital, where eye-catching office buildings and residential apartments are replacing the dilapidated structures riddled with bullets.
But on the other side, the construction sector, which a UN report in 2019 found that it was responsible for 38% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, is not well planned in a way to meet climate change solutions. As in the case of Somalia, when economies grow, there’s more construction, bigger floor plans for buildings, and more energy-hungry household and electronic appliances filling these spaces.
About 24% of global carbon emissions come from automobiles and other means of transportation around the world. Likewise, around 10% of buildings’ environmental footprint comes from their construction and materials. But most of the emissions that buildings are responsible for come from the energy used for heating, cooling and lighting.  Today, fossil fuels still make up a large part of the energy mix, which the report’s authors hope will change.
Rising prosperity in developing countries like Somalia, which do not yet have much renewable energy, led to a higher than normal increase in emissions from the building sector last year. .
What should Somalia do? 
In Mogadishu, construction project planners have little knowledge of the extent of greenhouse gas emissions and their effects on climate change. The majority of the capital’s new housing estates are being built in the midst of an economic boom as Somalis in the diaspora return and wealthy businessmen enjoy the relative peace in the city.
The Paris Agreement, which is a global commitment to prevent the planet from heating to more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The world is still on the way to crossing this threshold, which scientists believe could transform our planet in devastating ways. To reach the Paris target, every corner of our economy will need to achieve net zero carbon pollution – releasing no more carbon dioxide than it consumes – by 2050.  To make this a reality, emissions from the building sector must continue to decline by 6% each year.
At the local level, cities like Mogadishu, for example, need laws and regulations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from buildings in order to reduce greenhouse gases. This includes mandates to better insulate buildings and requirements for more efficient lighting and cooling systems.
Municipality leaders must also include buildings in their plans not only as a way to generate more taxes, but also to fight climate change. It is particularly important for bringing more renewable energy to the city’s networks and buildings.

Abdalle Ahmed Mumin is an award-winning freelance journalist. He covers conflict, humanitarian, human rights as well as the impact of climate change. Currently, Abdalle is serving as the secretary general of the Somali Journalists Syndicate (SJS). Follow @Cabdalleaxmed