Mayors of Global Cities Commit to Clean Construction

On November 24, 2020, the mayors of Oslo, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Budapest have pledged to halve emissions from all construction activities in their cities by 2030, in collaboration with leading companies and innovative business communities. 

Through the targets in C40’s Clean Construction Declaration, mayors pledge to revolutionise the global construction industry and shift it towards a more sustainable future, to achieve “a thriving, resilient and healthy life for everyone in our cities, especially our most vulnerable communities.” 

The construction industry in its current form is responsible for more than 23% of the world’s GHG emissions and 30% of global resource consumption. If the construction industry continues to take a business as usual approach, the world is on track for a global temperature increase of 3°C. 

The Declaration sets bold, ambitious targets to develop the net-zero emission buildings and infrastructure of the future by:

  • Reducing embodied emissions by at least 50% for all new buildings and retrofits by 2030 
  • Reducing embodied emissions by at least 50% of all infrastructure projects by 2030
  • Procuring and when possible using only zero emission construction machinery from 2025

Recognising that cities cannot tackle the climate crisis alone, the Declaration places the circular economy as its core and calls for innovation and collaboration across cities, businesses, regional, national and supranational government and industry. 

The Declaration commits cities to repurposing and retrofitting building stock to make better use of the buildings and infrastructure that currently exist, which also has huge potential to create new green jobs. Retrofitting reduces the need for raw building materials that have a high carbon footprint — concrete production alone is responsible for 8% of the world’s GHG emissions. 

The mayors also commit to lead by example on clean construction, using their purchasing power and normalising the use of zero emission construction machinery, and demanding transparency and accountability in their supply chains. They aim to achieve this by embedding clean construction policies into design and planning, procurement and contracting processes, as well as building codes. 

Finally, by signing the Declaration, mayors promise to approve at least one net-zero emission flagship construction project by 2025 and to produce annual reports on their progress.

The mayors’ shared declaration recognises the need for radical change in how cities approach construction. Clean construction principles can deliver a green and just recovery from the COVID-19 crisis; respond to the pressing issue of the climate crisis; improve air quality; and reduce inequality in the world’s cities. If successfully implemented, clean construction will create good, green jobs by investing in local and sustainable businesses and supporting workers. These will be particularly valuable in the recovery from COVID-19 and the associated economic impacts within cities.  

The radical collaboration and coalition-building necessary to deliver the Clean Construction Declaration is evidence of the growing impact of C40’s Global Green New Deal coalition, first announced by C40 Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in October 2019. 

Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo, said: “I am proud to announce our firm commitment to collaborate with business and industry to transform construction in Oslo and cities around the world for the better. The climate crisis is a global problem that requires global solutions. We need to unite businesses, industry and government on all levels to advance climate action. We must cut global emissions in half by 2030. The construction sector accounts for up to a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, it must play a key part if we are to reach this goal.

“We are confident that the C40 Clean Construction Declaration will contribute in shifting the construction market globally. Together, we can remove fossil fuels and reduce emissions from construction sites altogether. This will make them safer, quieter, cleaner places to work, and will ensure that the air in our cities is cleaner and healthier to breathe. We challenge the Minister of the Environment to take action and ask cities worldwide to join us”.

Cristina Gamboa, CEO of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), said: “WorldGBC celebrates C40’s Clean Construction Declaration, an extension of our joint Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment / Declaration. Promoting leadership from cities that embrace a whole life-cycle approach is crucial to achieving our unified vision of total decarbonisation of the built environment. 

“The Declaration, and the bolder leadership from policymakers behind it regarding their decarbonisation efforts, will create more confidence in the industry to deliver at scale the necessary investments to build back better.” 

Lena Hök, Senior Vice President Sustainability, Skanska Group, said: “Skanska has set an ambitious climate target to reach net zero carbon by 2045, including our value chain, and by 2030 we aim to half our emissions. We have a strong will to work towards a more sustainable transition for the entire industry and cooperate with partners to drive sustainability innovations. The commitment from C40 sets a bold directive for this transition enforcing a life cycle approach for greener, healthier and more energy efficient buildings and infrastructure. We look greatly forward to co-operate on this journey together.” 

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