Chapter 7
Make carbon visible through improved data access and quality
Make carbon visible through improved data access and quality
Adapt norms and standards to allow for the use of alternative or lower-carbon building materials and construction practices
Accelerate the industry transition
Ensure a just transition
Strengthen international action and collaboration for collective impact

Strengthen international action and collaboration for collective impact

7.6.1 Address the decarbonisation of materials and embodied carbon in NDCs

At the international climate level, action is required for countries to address embodied carbon in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) towards reducing emissions under the Paris Agreement. Despite the massive contribution to global emissions from embodied carbon within building materials, it has previously been under-addressed in strategies to reduce building emissions. Thus, related actions and targets should be introduced into NDCs.

Key Action

Include SMART goals for decarbonisation of the buildings and construction sector

Ensure that commitments in NDC reflect coherent policies presented in this chapter, with a key emphasis on materials industry decarbonisation and decisions made during the design phase, either at the national, subnational, architects, or contractors/implementer levels.

7.6.2 Development of International Trade Mechanisms to Ensure Decarbonisation of Emerging Economies

International cooperation is required to regulate fair certification and trade across borders and regions. Labelling standards and adequate verification mechanisms need to be fairly supported across economies to reduce the wide discrepancies in methods and quality.

For true decarbonisation of global material flows, it is necessary to close a “carbon loophole” that disadvantages producers from regions with strict pollution controls that must compete unfairly with producers with more lax controls. In turn, it is critical to help smaller producers, especially in emerging economies, achieve certification for their methods. Currently, some of the lowest-carbon practices are being unfairly penalised with cross-border carbon taxes because they cannot afford, or lack access to, certification processes.

Developments in international trade mechanisms may be able to change the game in combating global climate change. For emerging economies that historically have contributed very little to the impacts of climate change, but where the majority of the production and consumption of materials will occur in the coming decades, it is critical to facilitate the development of a consistent and comprehensive accounting system to accurately measure emissions all along the life cycle and value chain. This will enable these countries to have a fair chance to demonstrate their carbon competitiveness in their own domestic building booms, as well as in the production of materials for export (CCSI, IIED and IISD 2021).

For policy mechanisms to create a truly level playing field towards decarbonisation, many emerging economies that so far have not contributed greatly to climate change have taken the position that they should receive a significant portion of the proceeds from cross border carbon adjustment mechanisms, for example, to support them in the adoption of low-carbon production methods and certifications.

Key Action

Promote clear and consistent standards for carbon labelling.

Ensure that regulation and enforcement of domestic carbon labelling matches ISO standards.

Establish an international standards committee for carbon impact labelling of building materials to address discrepancies in methods and quality and create pathways towards enforceable regulation.

Close the “carbon loophole” in carbon offsets by developing a sliding scale of relevance, whereby the process most closely associated with the actual decarbonisation of material processes gets the most credit.

Develop trade mechanisms to support emerging economies.

Ensure a fair playing field for low-carbon building materials through international and multilateral engagement.