Build back better: decarbonise construction

10 June 2021

A coalition of stakeholders across Europe participating in the #BuildingLife campaign have come together to call on the European Commission to implement transformative policies that will lead to a fully decarbonised and circular built environment in Europe.

This coalition represents over 4,500 organisations across the real estate and construction sector value chain, and Eurocities. In an open letter sent this Thursday, they are calling on the European Commission to:

  • recognise 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, supports a Whole Life Carbon approach in addition to accelerating renovation, and greater accountability for achieved performance;
  • recognise the potential of Level(s) to deliver a harmonised implementation of Whole Life Carbon 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.

Why Buildings?

In Europe, the use of buildings accounts for around 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions. And this is just the operational impact of buildings. Globally, 11% of global emissions are from embodied carbon in construction – the emissions created from the construction, demolition and the wider supply chain of a building.

Moreover, buildings also account for around 50% of all extracted materials, 33% of water consumption and 35% of waste generated.

Although there are figures available globally, a scarcity of data in Europe means there is not yet a common consensus about the extent to which emissions can be attributed to embodied carbon in Europe’s building stock. However, what is known presents a compelling case for action.

It is estimated that embodied carbon today contributes typically between 10-20% of the EU building CO2 footprint depending on factors such as building type, construction technique & materials, grid intensity, etc. In some European countries with low carbon energy, the embodied share can already be as high as 50%. In the future, as buildings become more efficient and the grid more decarbonised, the relative share of embodied emissions will increase.

Further, the carbon footprint of materials and equipment used in construction and renovation to deliver the buildings’ basic requirements and operational performances will decrease as manufacturers decarbonise their supply chains and operations. The #BuildingLife coalition thinks it is important they are sent a market signal on how fast they will have to do it.


The #BuildingLife campaign aims to achieve the mix of private sector action and public policy necessary to tackle the whole-life impact of buildings. Currently, EU and member state buildings policy only addresses energy use, while buildings are operational.

“Eurocities members are driving change through zero emission construction sites, renovations to increase energy efficiency, and using concepts of the circular economy,” says Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General of Eurocities, and one of the ambassadors for the #BuildingLife campaign.

The signatories of today’s letter, which between them represent the entire value chain of the building sector, call on the European Commission to support the full decarbonisation of the built environment through ambitious policies.

Read the full letter here


Eugenia Mansutti Projects coordinator & Policy Advisor (Covenant of Mayors, Climate and Energy)