Parliament moves to bind cement emissions

Publish date: July 27, 2023

Cement, a major player in the construction industry, bears the burden of contributing to a staggering 7% of global emissions. The urgency to decarbonise this carbon-intensive sector and high-demand product is becoming more critical by the day. However, progress has been painfully slow, leaving the industry lagging behind Europe’s climate goals. In its July plenary, the European Parliament took a tentative step in the right direction when it passed two policies, the CPR and ESPR, harbouring the potential to set cement and the construction industry on a more sustainable track. 

The European Parliament passed the two revised regulations, the Construction Products Regulation (CPR) and Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) after they each underwent lengthy debates and negotiations. With the Council having adopted its positions to the ESPR and CPR in May and June respectively, they now enter trilogue negotiations, to be led by the new Spanish presidency 

ESPR and CPR: A potent duo? 

Until now, the CPR relied heavily on the standardisation process to take appropriate environmental and climate measures. This process is dominated by incumbent industry players and the self-regulated approach has proved woefully slow, allowing emissions to persist virtually unchanged for a decade, even amidst the escalating climate emergency. But with the ESPR having a proven track record of curbing emissions across various products since its inception in 2009, hope arises in the opportunity to play on its strengths.  

In an encouraging move, the Parliament has taken the step of linking the ESPR and CPR more closely: should the CPR not deliver adequate action on cement in a set time-frame, the ESPR will take over. By doing so, the ESPR now serves as a fallback option for the CPR regarding cement. This strategic alignment is crucial in addressing the CPR’s inadequacies in driving rapid decarbonisation within the cement sector. This latest move to fortify the ESPR’s influence could be the catalyst needed to invigorate a slow standardisation process, whether by encouraging its reform, or by alternative pathways like the ESPR.  

With the colossal share of cement manufacturing in global emissions, the urgency to regulate its environmental performance cannot be overstated. The European Parliament’s recent votes to better regulate cement through the ESPR and CPR revisions therefore marks a tentative but important step forward. The stage is now set for trilogue negotiations, where we hope to see support and recognition of what this can mean for unleashing the power of sustainable construction and paving the way for a greener, cleaner construction sector.  

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