Focus area

Embodied Carbon

As the world transitions towards climate neutrality, it is important to decarbonise every part of the economy, including buildings.

Embodied carbon has become a critical topic in the building sector as it accounts for the carbon emissions associated with the production, transportation, and installation of building materials and products. 

In short:

  • Embodied carbon should be considered in measuring the decarbonisation of buildings and construction. 
  • Markets for low-carbon building materials should be facilitated and created through such tools as green public procurement. 

Embodied carbon plays a significant role in the carbon footprint of buildings and construction. It refers to the carbon emissions associated with the entire lifecycle of building materials and products. Cement and steel are some of the most carbon intensive parts of the embodied emissions associated with buildings. These two materials alone are responsible for 7% (cement) and 8% (steel) of emissions globally.  

«Embodied carbon’ refers to the CO₂ emissions of a building or infrastructure during its whole lifecycle, from extraction of raw materials to end-of-life, excluding the emissions associated with energy use.»

Irene Domínguez

Policy Advisor, Embodied Carbon

While previous efforts have focused on reducing operational carbon through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy, accounting for embodied carbon is equally important. In new buildings constructed according to the latest energy performance standards, embodied carbon could represent around 50% of the building’s whole lifecycle emissions. Therefore, efforts to reduce embodied carbon are essential in achieving climate targets and decarbonising the building and construction sectors. 

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Parliament moves to bind cement emissions

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 people involved

Irene Domínguez

Policy Advisor, Embodied Carbon

Marika Andersen

Senior Manager

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