Source from weforum.org
- An acceleration of green public procurement practices is needed to achieve low carbon concrete.
- Governments procure roughly half of all concrete produced, and cement is responsible for ~7% of global emissions.
- A new report profiles six countries taking action on public procurement of concrete and construction – but more is needed.
Cement – a vital component of concrete – is in high demand due to recent growth in both developed and developing economies. Many of these projects are highly beneficial, improving the quality of life and providing jobs for millions. However, they also have a negative environmental impact: the cement industry is responsible for approximately 7% of global CO₂ emissions. Achieving climate change goals – limiting the global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels – will be impossible without taking action to decarbonize concrete production.
We cannot start to tackle carbon emissions from concrete without the involvement of the public sector. National, regional, and local governments and agencies typically make up 40% to 60% of concrete sales and 20% to 30% of construction industry revenue. In total, public sector procurement makes up for 12% of global GDP and 15% of global carbon emissions. According to a report released by the Forum earlier this year, reducing these emissions could give a $4 trillion boost to the green economy, create 3 million net new jobs, and significantly lower the social cost of carbon. However, the truth is that the progress we are making today does not put us on track to reach net zero by 2050. Getting to net zero demands that all governments – especially the largest emitters – take immediate, decisive steps to reduce emissions now.
A Low Carbon Concrete Procurement Model
Six countries at the forefront of innovation in the concrete and construction industry – the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and United States – have adopted low carbon concrete rules and green procurement policies. Based on interviews with construction and procurement experts from the public and private sectors, Low Carbon Concrete and Construction: A Review of Green Public Procurement Programmes analyses the tools and policies they have employed to support a shift towards low carbon concrete. The report is created by Mission Possible Partnership (MPP), an alliance of climate leaders with the goal of supercharging decarbonization across the entire value chain of the world’s highest-emitting industries in the next 10 years. It was developed by the Concrete Action for Climate Initiative (led by the Forum and the Global Cement and Concrete Association) in affiliation with Boston Consulting Group.
A blueprint for low carbon concrete and construction is emerging from these countries, and it contains two facets (refer to the graphic below):
- The foundation provides common standards for measuring the carbon emissions of concrete, other building materials and completed projects. It also usually comprises a product database for saving and retrieving carbon emissions data, as well as baselines for materials like concrete. Baselines and databases for entire projects can also be created.
- Procurement policies establish guidelines for the disclosure of carbon in concrete products and projects, which is crucial for collecting data during the foundation stage. Furthermore, procurement policies are necessary to set goals for reducing carbon emissions. To fulfil these targets, mandates and incentives should be put into place.
Global Collaboration Is Needed
Although these countries have achieved progress in their programmes for developing low carbon concrete, they are only at the beginning of their journey. As their green procurement initiatives advance, they need to be assessed and improved continuously, becoming more and more ambitious over time, and, ideally, meeting the targets set in the Paris Agreement. This will only be possible if public and private sector stakeholders collaborate with each other across the globe. “Working together, being innovative and sharing knowledge between all those involved is crucial,” says Albert Manenschijn, Principal Consultant for Rijkswaterstaat, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management in the Netherlands. “It enables consistent and coordinated green public procurement, which is a key building block in speeding up the concrete industry’s transition to net zero.”
It is additionally paramount that low carbon concrete approaches are adopted by developing nations, who will comprise a large portion of the world's future concrete demand. Rapid infrastructure expansion is of the utmost importance in those countries - and economic policies typically prioritise speedy construction of housing, roads, bridges, hospitals and schools over meeting climate change objectives. Therefore, it will be essential to enlarge and customise green public procurement tools and policies so that developing countries can introduce them without hindering their growth.
First movers in government and the private sector
The Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative (IDDI), organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), is a promising international campaign with the goal of reducing carbon emissions in built projects. The IDDI's objective is to gain commitments from a minimum of 10 countries to start implementing low-carbon steel and concrete procurement policies within the next three years.
The private sector's engagement in procuring and constructing low carbon concrete will be crucial as well. To encourage public and private sector participation, the First Movers Coalition (FMC) is using the purchasing power of companies and governments (currently with 10 government partners: US, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, United Kingdom, India, Italy and Norway) to decarbonize seven "hard to abate" industrial sectors, including concrete. FMC members agree to purchase a portion of the industrial materials they need from suppliers using near-zero or zero-carbon solutions.
What is the Forum doing to help cities to reach a net-zero carbon future?
In a momentous move, nine cities and more than 70 organisations from 10 separate industries have joined forces to bolster progress on a new multi-year initiative: Net Zero Carbon Cities.
Along with the Forum, they have devised a vision for the future and launched a new framework to assist cities in rethinking their urban ecosystems, ensuring that they are more green, efficient, resilient, circular and equitable.
From policy-makers and businesses, to city administrators, civil society and the financial sector – the World Economic Forum is bringing together a range of stakeholders who have a part to play if global cities are to have any chance of meeting the net-zero carbon goal by 2030.
Companies can join the integrated approach to help sculpt city ecosystems to become net zero carbon by joining a Forum platform. To find out more, read our impact story.
The path to a 1.5°C goal is made up of many moving parts – and reducing carbon emissions from concrete is just one of them. But the initiatives already in place to address this crucial issue, as well as the lessons learned from them, can hopefully provide a foundation for establishing and scaling green public procurement programmes both within and among countries.