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Cities commit to ‘clean construction’ to cut building emissions by up to 44 per cent

Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm have pledged to reduce emissions from construction as new research is released.

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Changes to the construction industry could cut the emissions generated from buildings and infrastructure by 44 per cent by 2050, according to a new report published by C40 Cities, Arup and University of Leeds.

 

Building and Infrastructure Consumption Emissions urges action in six key areas to reduce the climate impact of construction in cities:

 

  • Implementing efficiency in material design
  • Enhancing existing building utilisation
  • Switching high-emission materials to sustainable timber where appropriate
  • Using lower-carbon cement
  • Reusing building materials and components
  • Using low or zero-emission construction machinery

 

As well as reducing GHG emissions, the research finds such action could generate additional economic, social and health benefits, including reducing air and noise pollution and potentially boosting the industry to create new jobs.

 

Consumption-based emissions including construction, food, clothing, aviation and building from nearly 100 of the world’s big cities already represent 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Without urgent action, those emissions will nearly double by 2050, according to the research report The Future of Urban Consumption in a 1.5°C World.

 

Cities get on board

 

Cities are starting to take action on construction. Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm have this week committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from construction sites.

 

Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen and Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo, pledged to enact regulations and/or planning policy to ensure they purchase biofuels and emission-free machinery for the city’s use, and demand fossil- and emission-free solutions in public procurement and city-supported projects.

 

Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm have committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution from construction sites.

 

In Oslo, all city-owned machinery and municipally owned construction sites are targeted to operate with zero emissions by 2025.

 

“In Oslo, construction sites generate as much as seven per cent of total emissions, equivalent to an additional 30,000 petrol cars on the road,” said, Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo. “New kindergartens, schools and sports halls will in future be built emissions-free and with low climate materials. The building industry is our closest ally and an enthusiastic supporter. We are confident that by 2030, Oslo’s air will be cleaner, emissions lower and environment healthier thanks to the actions we are taking today.”

 

Copenhagen’s CPH2025 Climate Plan, a roadmap for 2017-2020, includes a goal for the City to use fossil-free fuels in its own non-road mobile machinery. In the budget for 2020, Copenhagen is promoting a transformation from fossil fuels to sustainable biofuels, and to fossil-free non-road mobile machinery in its own machines. It will also double down on efforts to ensure that municipally commissioned construction sites and civil work will be fossil-free.

 

“Copenhagen will work to purchase fossil-free fuel for its own machinery and heavy vehicles, and pilot projects with tender requirements for fossils- or emission-free machinery in construction projects,” said Frank Jensen, Lord Mayor of Copenhagen, and C40 Vice-Chair. “We will also collaborate with market players to make them use fossil-free fuels.”

 

Both cities have pledged to reduce the indirect emissions generated from building works through the prioritisation of retrofits and refurbishment of their existing stock, de-incentivising demolitions and encouraging the use of low-carbon and reusable materials.

 

Driving a global market

 

Stockholm aims to be fossil-fuel-free and climate-positive by 2040.

 

In partnership with the Swedish Construction Federation and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL, Stockholm has developed a Life-Cycle Analysis tool to evaluate all aspects of the building process from a climate point of view – from the choice of materials and the use of machinery to the construction processes. The solution is now being piloted with a target of rolling it out city-wide by 2021.

 

"Together with the building industry and academia, Stockholm is creating a powerful tool to scrutinise the climate impact of the whole building process. Using it will help us steer towards the most climate-efficient solutions”, said Anna König Jerlmyr, Mayor of Stockholm.

 

Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm have also committed to taking a leadership role in creating a global market for low-emission construction materials and zero-emission machinery, working through the C40 Clean Construction Forum. Launched in Oslo in May 2019, the Forum brings together major cities from around the world to use their purchasing power to shift markets within the construction sector.

 

Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm have also committed to taking a leadership role in creating a global market for low-emission construction materials and zero-emission machinery.

 

"The world’s cities are growing fast, with an area the size of Milan being built every week. It may be a boom time for builders but the construction industry is a major contributor to the climate crisis,” said Mark Watts, executive director of C40 Cities. “The mayors of Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm recognise that without urgent action to cut emissions generated in the construction of buildings and infrastructure, there is no chance of delivering on the Paris Agreement and preventing catastrophic climate change.

 

"As C40’s research demonstrates, citizens will ultimately benefit from cleaner air, quieter streets and lower prices. Now it is up to businesses and industry to recognise the risks of inaction and work with mayors and consumers to make sure everyone benefits from the huge opportunities that lie ahead from clean construction.”

 

Mayors of more than 70 cities are meeting in Copenhagen this week for the C40 World Mayors Summit 2019.

 

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