Buildings and the construction industry account for 40% of energy consumption, 36% of CO2 emissions, 50% of raw materials and 33% of waste and water use. While the numbers are high, and reducing them might do wonders for the EU’s climate targets, little is being done – that, at least, is the contention put by 31 organisations, including Eurocities, in a letter sent today to European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius.
One year after the Circular Economy Action Plan was first proposed, and as debates are held on its implementation, the organisations call for an ambitious EU strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment.
The proposed strategy, detailed in the letter, would seek to coordinate actions “to capitalise on commitments already made in the EU Recovery Plan and Renovation Wave”.
Building renovations – a must for climate action
Given that we can estimate 80 of buildings standing today will still be around by 2050, combined with the figures above, focusing on buildings should be a central feature of both the EU and local level climate strategies.
Indeed, as Anna Lisa Boni, Secretary General, Eurocities, has said, there is much that cities can do: “Eurocities members are driving change through zero emission construction sites, renovations to increase energy efficiency, and using concepts of the circular economy.”
As often large landlords themselves, city authorities manage extensive portfolios of public buildings, and can make a big impact to market conditions, through targeted actions such as their use of public procurement, employing energy saving renovations, and by thinking about the entire lifecycle of a building.
Take the example of Oslo, where a project to transform one of the city’s streets has introduced the world’s first zero- emissions construction site, or that of Brighton & Hove where the city council has rethought how it thinks about its offices, assets and approach to deconstruction work.
The King’s House project, in Brighton and Hove, involved emptying the largest office block in the city of 1,000 staff along with all their furniture and equipment. But rather than send the material to waste, as in the past, it was used to benefit local residents, organisations and community groups. In total 150 tonnes of materials were reused, which is equal to £150,000 of economic value re-entering the local community.
At the same time, in the context of the post-Covid19 recovery, which is very focussed on creating sustainability and resilience, the circular economy could create up to 700,000 new jobs by 2030.