New EU Policy Roadmap to accelerate decarbonisation of buildings and construction

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decarbonisation of buildings

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has launched a new EU Policy Roadmap to accelerate progress made on the decarbonisation of buildings and construction

The EU Policy Roadmap has been developed with the support of a coalition of over 35 leading industry bodies through WorldGBC’s flagship #BuildingLife project.

It is the first of its kind at EU scale to address the whole life carbon impact of the built environment, one of the most heavily emitting sectors in the world.

Decarbonisation of buildings by 2050

The EU Policy Roadmap proposes a timeline of recommended actions for EU policymakers to accelerate the decarbonisation of buildings by 2050, tackling both CO2 emissions from their operation, and the long-overlooked impact of emissions from materials and construction.

The report is divided into four key policy routes:

  • Building Regulations
  • Waste and Circularity
  • Sustainable Procurement
  • Sustainable Finance.

Renovation rates must be doubled

Included in the proposals is the urgent need for more ambitious policy and financial support to enable energy-efficient property upgrades – renovation rates must at least be doubled.

The roadmap makes a series of recommendations on how EU policy can enforce the calculation and regulation of emissions across the whole life cycle of a building, as well as measures that will improve the circularity of building materials – buildings are still being constructed using carbon-intensive materials and processes.

It also has further guidance on how EU, national and regional policy makers can align in what they ask of industry, encouraging a multi-level governance approach. And finally, the roadmap spells out ways that companies can support the implementation of the roadmap.

A failure to address the whole life carbon impact of buildings will mean the decimation of Europe’s remaining carbon budget, putting the EU Green Deal’s target of climate neutrality by 2050 and the goals agreed by policymakers at COP26 well beyond reach.

EU built environment is responsible for over a third of carbon emissions

Cristina Gamboa, CEO, WorldGBC, said: “Europe’s built environment is responsible for over a third of the region’s carbon emissions.

“Eliminating these emissions means we are fully tackling both the energy efficiency of the buildings themselves and decarbonising the many material supply chains that the sector relies upon.

“We are grateful for the strong support shown by so many leading organisations for the recommendations in this roadmap and we are calling on the European Commission, Parliament and Council to take note – and take action. The safe and sustainable future of Europe depends upon it.”

Carl Bäckstrand, board member, Architects Council of Europe, said: “Considering the full lifecycle of buildings is essential so that designers can balance the often conflicting factors driving building performance.

“A lifecycle approach can save substantially more carbon compared to targeting operational savings only and to deliver 2050 targets new buildings and refurbishments should already be targeting net zero.

“We enthusiastically support the call in this roadmap for regulation to ensure that the unprecedented scale of investment in energy efficiency is also powering the creation of a circular economy – to keep construction emissions in check.”

Olympia Dolla, sustainable construction manager, Eurima: “Eurima is pleased to support this roadmap, which recognises the importance to tackle whole life cycle emissions of buildings.

“The industry needs a harmonised framework of tools addressing the embodied carbon of buildings also in the context of the upcoming EPBD revision.

“This revision represents only the first legislative milestones to be considered on the way to 2030 and 2050 goals and this roadmap provides much needed clarity to all involved as to what those milestones should look like.”

‘Companies need to start measuring the full carbon footprint of their real estate assets’

Roland Hunziker, director, Built Environment, WBCSD, said: “To get the construction industry on track to reach global climate targets, all companies need to start measuring the full carbon footprint of their real estate assets.

“WBCSD’s own research has shown that setting explicit targets from the start of a building project and through collaboration along the value chain, emissions could be halved in every building project by 2030. So it’s great to see the strong coalition of supporters backing this roadmap and its call for clear regulatory targets to be developed.”

Wolfgang Teubner, regional director Europe and managing director, ICLEI European Secretariat, said: “To successfully decarbonise Europe’s built environment, every governance level will have to be fully engaged in the process, working together to facilitate effective flow of funding, knowledge and data crucial to this transition.

“Moreover, it will be critically important that subnational levels are meaningfully engaged in policy-making processes, to ensure that on-the-ground realities are taken into account, sustainable procurement practices are fully leveraged, and local governments are adequately resourced to support market actors and disadvantaged groups.

“The #BuildingLife roadmap works towards this vision, providing deep insights into, and recommendations on, how policymakers can implement a ‘whole life’ carbon approach in a comprehensive and integrated manner.”

Download the full roadmap. 

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