International Policy Review of Low Embodied Carbon Construction Materials

Published 01 Apr 2022

By Alexander Nasser, Project Officer - Climate-KIC Australia

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1 April 2022, Sydney – On the 31st of March 2022 Climate-KIC Australia, WWF and Presync, as an extension of their roles with MECLA, held a workshop to present their research on the emerging policies in jurisdictions around the world aimed at reducing embodied carbon in the built environment.

The researchers who lead the workshop were:

  • Monica Richter: Strategic Advisor, WWF Australia
  • Hudson Worsley: Project Manager, Presync
  • Alex Nassar: Project Analyst, Project Officer, Climate-KIC Australia

Embodied carbon refers to the total greenhouse emissions generated during the manufacture of the materials and products used in the construction and refurbishment of new and existing buildings and infrastructure.

The purpose of the workshop was to provide examples from overseas of best practice policy development to encourage the uptake of low and zero embodied construction materials. Designed to test the insights across what is being observed in Australia and bring attendees up to speed on global efforts in this space, it also created the opportunity for feedback to be gained that will shape a final report that the research presented will form the basis of.

The workshop identified examples of incentives, regulations, standards, rating mechanisms and combinations of these aimed at reducing embodied carbon in the international built environment. Within the workshop, the researchers presented the findings and insights from existing resources as well as interviews conducted with a range of national and international stakeholders. Some of these insights include:

  • How low embodied carbon can be achieved through more thoughtful use of long-term design processes that are encouraged by policies such as circular economy, carbon pricing and others;
  • The strength of government as a source of strong demand signals for the supply chain to catalyse greater investment into low carbon materials;
  • How incentive-based policies in the USA have been creatively used to drive uptake of voluntary green building ratings;
  • How Europe are leading the charge on high quality databases and methodologies that facilitate a consistent, mandated approaches to regulating embodied carbon on a building-by-building basis; and
  • How the Asia-pacific have used Research and Development funding to become global leaders in carbon, energy and water efficient architecture;

The research being led by MECLA is funded by the NSW Government which recognises embodied carbon as a growing focus for emission reduction opportunities, especially as the national electricity grid transitions to renewables.

Among the 62 attendees were policymakers, planners, procurement professionals, government architects, treasury risk managers and other key stakeholders across all Australian states and territories, with some participants joining from overseas to take part in this growing field of interest. The feedback from the participants of the workshop will be used to inform the final version of the report and address any gaps in the literature, or stakeholder consultation scope, with the intent of having a more complete analysis of what opportunities exist for Australia.

For more information or to access workshop materials, please contact MECLA.

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