European building sector leaders urge the EU to prioritize decarbonizing the built environment

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15 June, 2021




A coalition of construction sector leaders calls on the European Commission to support the full decarbonization of the built environment through ambitious policies.

Geneva, 15 June: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and a coalition representing over 4,500 organizations across the building sector has signed a letter to the European Commission. The letter calls on the Commission to ensure the review of key legislative files, such as the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), supports a Whole Life Carbon (WLC) approach.

The open letter is part of World Green Building Council’s (WorldGBC) #BuildingLife project, which was launched in December involving 10 national Green Building Councils (GBCs). The project, funded by the European Climate Foundation, IKEA Foundation and Laudes Foundation, is working with industry stakeholders to develop an EU Policy Whole Life Carbon Roadmap to outline the appropriate routes to implement a WLC approach into the EU Policy Framework. This process is also being replicated at the national level in 10 European countries.

Embodied carbon – emitted by the construction, demolition and the wider supply chain of a building – accounts for an estimated 10-20% of the EU’s CO2 building footprint. As outlined in the letter, the signatories consider it crucial for European policy to tackle these emissions in conjunction with operational emissions – produced when buildings are in use – to attain climate neutrality by 2050 in line with the EU Green Deal.

Roland Hunziker, Director, Sustainable Buildings & Cities, WBCSD, said, “A whole life carbon approach is critical to achieving net-zero emissions in the built environment. Overall, carbon performance needs to become an integral part of the assessment in every transaction along the value chain and be incorporated into early project decision-making, procurement and regulations. The #BuildingLife project aims to propose practical steps to achieve this.”

Cristina Gamboa, CEO, World Green Building Council, added, “This open letter shows a clear consensus across Europe’s building sector – EU policy must go further to deliver a fully decarbonized and circular built environment. As COP26 draws closer, there is a critical urgency for policymakers to embrace a whole life carbon approach to buildings – one which encompasses not only operational emissions but embodied carbon as well. #BuildingLife is showing the way by developing a suite of roadmaps for the EU and 10 European countries, through radical collaboration across industry leaders, policymakers and experts.

The actions for the European Commission set out in the letter are:

  • Recognize the full potential of the building sector in delivering a climate-neutral Europe.
  • Ensure that the review of key legislative files, including the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), support a Whole Life Carbon (WLC) approach in addition to accelerating renovation and greater accountability for achieved performance.
  • Recognize the potential of Level(s) – the EU’s framework for sustainable buildings – to deliver a harmonized implementation of WLC policy, building circularity and adaptability analysis.
  • Deliver the EU Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment to ensure coherence across policies and coordinate the transition to a sustainable built environment in the EU.
  • Work with the committed network of #BuildingLife stakeholders to develop and deliver these transformative policies.

For more information, please contact Julia Mitic.