Global construction industry emissions from buildings and infrastructure could be cut 44 percent by 2050, according to the 94-strong C40 Cities, which, along with engineering and design specialists Arup Group and the UK's University of Leeds, identifies six key areas to target in its "Building and Infrastructure Consumption Emissions" report.
"Clean construction" methods and practices that minimize the climate impacts of buildings and construction would also convey additional economic, social and health benefits, the report reveals. These include reductions in air and noise pollution and benefits to human and overall environmental health. And they would create opportunities for innovations and job creation within the construction industry.
"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,” C40 Cities' Executive Director Mark Watts was quoted in a news release.
“The mayors of Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm recognize 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 recognize 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.”
Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm take on leading roles
C40 Cities' members Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm announced new clean construction commitments in parallel with the report's release in bids to stem the tide of rising global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, mean temperatures and their impacts. The mayors of Copenhagen and Oslo said emissions from fossil fuel use at construction sites and civil works would be reduced by reducing use of fossil fuels.
Rules and regulations are to be introduced in Copenhagen and Oslo to reduce and eventually eliminate use of fossil fuels at construction sites, civil sites and facilities owned or run by the municipalities. These include purchasing biofuels and emissions-free machinery for the cities' own use, and incorporating fossil fuel and emissions-free requirements for public procurement and projects supported by the city. In addition, all machinery and construction sites owned by the city are to be emissions-free by 2025.
Both cities have also committed to reduce the indirect emissions resulting from building works by prioritizing retrofits and refurbishment of existing stock, removing incentives for demolition and encouraging the use of low-carbon and reusable materials.
Copenhagen has set a goal that includes using zero-carbon fuels in its "non-road" mobile machinery as part of its CPH2025 Climate Plan, Road-map 2017-2020. Transitioning from fossil fuels to sustainable biofuel use in its non-road mobile machinery is part and parcel of the city's 2020 budget, as is strengthening efforts to ensure that construction sites and civil work commissioned by the city will free of fossil fuels.
“Copenhagen will work to purchase fossil-free fuel for its own machinery and heavy vehicles, pilot projects with tender requirements for fossils-or emission-free construction 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.”
Emissions free construction projects, sites and machinery
Similarly, all machinery and constructions sites owned by the city will operate emissions-free by 2025. “In Oslo, construction sites generate as much as 7 percent of total emissions, equivalent to an additional 30,000 petrol cars on the road,” according to Governing Mayor of Oslo Raymond Johansen.“ New kindergartens, schools, 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.”
Stockholm is taking a "holistic approach" in order to realize its goal of being free of fossil fuels and "climate positive" in terms of emissions by 2040. Joining with the Swedish Construction Federation and Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL, the city has developed a Life-Cycle Analysis tool that evaluates all aspects of the building process from a climate perspective. That includes the choice of materials and the use of machinery on through to construction processes. Now being evaluated in a pilot project, the intention is to implement the new assessment method city-wide come 2021.
Looking to capitalize on the socioeconomic potential of climate-positive construction and buildings, the three Scandinavian capital cities say they will take on a leadership role in creating a global market for low-emission construction materials and zero-emission machinery. They will work through the C40 Clean Construction Forum to do so.