During the Paris climate conference in 2015, international agreements about these challenges were made, and the European Union also set climate goals for 2020, 2030 and 2050. But in December 2013, a report from the European Commission showed that the goals would be far from being achieved with their current approach.
That is why new European plans were drawn up in the run-up to the 2018 climate conference in Katowice, Poland: The European Green Deal. In March 2020, the Commission proposed a European Climate Law to turn this political commitment into a legal obligation.
The Green Deal forms an integral part of the European Commission’s strategy to implement the United Nations 2030 Agenda and the sustainable development goals that we also wrote about before. But what is the EU Green Deal exactly and how does this impact the European construction industry? That is what we’re covering in the article today.
What is The EU Green Deal?
In short, The European Green Deal is a roadmap for making the EU economy sustainable and climate neutral.
This new growth strategy aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use.
The action plan by the European Commission indicates which investments and financial instruments are required to use resources more efficiently by switching to a clean, circular economy, to restore biodiversity and to reduce pollution. It also clarifies how to ensure a just and inclusive transition.
If the new EU climate law gets passed, Member States will be obliged to take measures at national level to achieve the target of making Europe climate neutral by 2050. If they do not comply with the rules, the Commission can take legal action.
Why Climate Neutral?
At the moment, the majority of energy used in the European Union comes from oil and natural gas. During combustion, the carbon that is stored underground in these fossil fuels is released into the atmosphere as Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
As a result of these so-called ‘greenhouse’ gas emissions, the earth warms up faster and extreme weather events become more common. The only way to combat this climate change is to limit these emissions.
It takes 25 years – a generation – to transform an industrial sector and all the value chains. To be ready in 2050, decisions and actions need to be taken in the next five years.
We’ve already written about the ambition of the City of Amsterdam to become the first 100% circular city in the world by 2050. What are the circular goals of the city or country you are realising projects in? Let us know in the comments below!
The Green Deal would make Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world. While Europe might only be responsible for just 9% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the deal can set a great example to the rest of the world.
According to European Commission chairwoman Ursula von der Leyen, a healthy economy and a healthy climate CAN go together. And we agree!
The Green Deal & Construction
While the circular economy action plan will guide the transition of all sectors, action will focus in particular on resource-intensive sectors such as textiles, construction, electronics and plastics.
The construction, use and renovation of buildings require significant amounts of energy and mineral resources (e.g. sand, gravel, cement). Buildings also account for 40% of energy consumed. Today the annual renovation rate of the building stock varies from 0.4 to 1.2% in the Member States. This rate will need at least to double to reach the EU’s energy efficiency and climate objectives. In parallel, 50 million consumers struggle to keep their homes adequately warm.
For the construction industry, this not only means that energy production must become low-carbon and that there should be investment in environmentally friendly technology, but also that as many buildings as possible will be renovated and made energy-efficient.
Sustainable Products Policy
On top of that, The Green Deal action plan will include a ‘sustainable products policy’ to support the circular design of products. It will prioritise reducing and reusing materials before recycling them.
It will foster new business models and set minimum requirements to prevent environmentally harmful products from being placed on the EU market. Extended producer responsibility will also be strengthened.
This policy has the potential to reduce waste significantly. And where waste cannot be avoided, its economic value must be recovered and its impact on the environment and on climate change avoided or minimised.
The Commission will consider legal requirements to boost the market of secondary raw materials with mandatory recycled content (for instance for packaging, vehicles, construction materials and batteries).
In addition, the Commission will review the Construction Products Regulation (CPR). It should ensure that the design of new and renovated buildings at all stages is in line with the needs of the circular economy, and lead to increased digitization and climate-proofing of the building stock.
Read more about eco building materials in our article about sustainable building design >>
From Plans to Policy
The ambitious European Green Deal is a starting point for all climate initiatives that the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European member states will be putting forward in the coming years.
They will now all have to work together to develop concrete plans and legislation that will ensure that the ambitions are actually translated into policy.
To finance the Green Deal, the European Commission wants to spend 1,000 billion euros in ten years. This money must come from both governments and private investors.
If you’ve followed our story at StoneCycling, you know that we’ve been working hard since 2009 to reach our mission of moving towards beautiful building materials made from 100% up-cycled waste with a positive carbon impact on the planet.
With our progressive partners we have already transformed more than half a million kg of waste into award-winning sustainable building materials such as the WasteBasedBricks® and WasteBasedSlips® for projects across Europe (and beyond!). But we know we can do much better!
We strongly believe that tackling climate and environmental-related challenges is this generation’s defining task. The European Green Deal is a step in the right direction. All we need is more allies willing to talk about making climate-neutral construction the standard.
Do you want to become a frontrunner? Then let’s talk!