On the ‘Cities, Regions and Built Environment Day’ at COP26, C40 Cities has launched a new coalition of cities and construction sector companies to tackle the urgent challenge of emissions from the global construction sector. This won’t happen without workers, therefore C40 is also launching a joint statement with Building and WoodWorkers International, to ensure a just transition.

The new Clean Construction Action Coalition targets a crucial but fragmented sector representing almost a quarter (23%) of global GHG emissions and consuming over half of all extracted global resources. Only joint actions from cities, industry and workers will halve emissions from the global built environment sector by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

Glasgow is the first time union and industry voices are joining those of cities at a UN Climate Summit. C40 mayors are a critical accelerator to action in this sector as policymakers must rapidly put in place the regulations, guidance, and incentives to facilitate the transition. However, they cannot do this alone.

“San Francisco continues to lead the way on reducing carbon emissions from buildings, including our recent citywide ban of natural gas infrastructure in new construction projects,” says Mayor of San Francisco, London N. Breed. “It’s on city governments across the world to send a clear signal to the market that all construction must transition to clean construction in order to meet our global emissions reductions targets. We’re looking forward to our growing partnership with C40 and the critical work ahead with the Clean Construction Action Coalition as we inspire the public and private sectors to decarbonize our buildings and create a healthier environment for our communities.”

Mark Watts, Executive Director C40 Cities says: “We need to radically change the way we plan, design, build and maintain the buildings and infrastructure of our cities to dramatically cut emissions and therefore its impact on the climate crisis. The role of mayors and municipal governments is to create and shape markets, setting a clear direction for mission driven firms to prosper from sustainable construction quickly becoming the norm.”

Ambet Yuson, General Secretary Building and Wood Workers International – Global Union Federation – says: “Workers will be the ones delivering the change we need, so a fair and just transition, where new green jobs are also decent and union jobs, is paramount. We have a once in a generation chance to deliver green skills development, retraining for workers, employment support programmes and access to comprehensive social protection through collaboration with cities, social dialogue and collective bargaining between companies and trade unions.”

As a founding partner of #BuildingToCOP26, C40 Cities is driving city stakeholder collaboration to halve emissions from the built environment sector by 2030, critical to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.

“We can make no small plans when it comes to combatting climate change, especially as we face increased natural disasters and rising global temperatures,” said the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2021 President, Peter Exley, FAIA. “That is why partnership between our cities, fellow citizens, industry, the academy, and architects is so critical to achieving sustainable and resilient communities for all. The AIA stands committed to working with civic and corporate leaders–at every level–to ensure we make the meaningful changes that are truly needed to move the needle on climate action.”

Multiplex UK Managing Director Callum Tuckett says: “Put simply, the construction industry needs to stop talking, thinking and procrastinating and just do. This means focusing on the biggest difference we can make within our sphere of influence. Contractors like us and our supply chains are doing things, but we need to do more and need to work harder to reduce the carbon impact of delivering buildings, with 38% of global energy-related carbon emissions coming from the built environment.”

Lars Völkel, EVP Wood Products, Stora Enso says: “We welcome the C40 Clean Construction Declaration. There is an urgent need to reduce embodied emissions from building materials. Low carbon materials such as mass timber exist today, and they need to be promoted from the earliest planning stages of building projects to help achieve net zero buildings and cities.”

Key C40 actions delivered at COP26

Leveraging the Cities Race to Zero campaign
At COP26, C40 Cities announced that 110 cities across the world, including Atlanta, Kigali and Pune, have pledged to “move towards resilient & sustainable construction systems” as part of the UN’s Cities Race to Zero campaign. $1.2 trillion in real estate assets under management are now a part of the Cities Race to Zero campaign

Chinese cities join global efforts
Beijing and Qingdao, representing over 30 million people, are officially joining C40’s Clean Construction programme and the other 38 global C40 cities actively working on this issue. ​​In 2022, joint research and pilot demonstration projects are planned to be initiated in Beijing and Qingdao.

San Francisco joins the Clean Construction Declaration
C40 has developed a Clean Construction Declaration signed by 5 visionary members of the C40 network: Budapest, Los Angeles, Oslo, Mexico City, and now San Francisco. They are showing strong leadership and policy demand through city action including setting targets for reduced embodied emissions in new developments, using incentives to maximise the use of existing buildings and materials and mobilising the use of low emission materials and machinery through city procurement.

They have pledged to bring together and inspire stakeholders to take action, and enact policies and regulations where they have the powers to:

  1. Reducing embodied emissions by at least 50% for all new buildings and major retrofits by 2030, striving for at least 30% by 2025
  2. Reducing embodied emissions by at least 50% of all infrastructure projects by 2030, striving for at least 30% by 2025
  3. Require zero emission construction machinery in municipal projects from 2025 and zero emission construction sites city-wide by 2030, where available.

Connecting cities and industries
At COP26, C40 is launching a new Clean Construction Action Coalition (CCAC), to harness expertise and solutions from across the construction value chain. and realise the C40 mayors’ pledge. This coalition includes 11 new companies from manufacturers and architects to constructors all bringing actions aligned to those of cities: the American Institute of Architects (AIA), BuildX, Building Transparency, Buro Happold, Dar Group, Holcim, Perkins & Will, Multiplex, Ramboll, Turner Construction and Stora Enso. This global industry signal reinforces the strong leadership and policy demand from cities.

Ensuring a just transition with workers
C40 and the Building and Woodworkers International global union are working together to lead a just transition to a clean construction sector and have published an ambitious joint statement to recognise the role of workers in delivering the actions cities and companies are taking, and define what is needed to deliver the change the coalition wants.  

Key C40 actions pledged for COP27
  • C40 Cities will continue to bring cities and local stakeholders together in a series of deep dives into six cities around the world — developed in partnership with Buro Happold. Today, C40 and Buro Happold have launched the Mexico City report, after the publication of Toronto in September. By COP27, the series will be complete with Ekurhuleni, Milan, Qingdao and Quezon City. Each report provides an overview of the construction landscape in each city and recommends local, actionable clean construction measures the city could adopt, highlighting the broader benefits this would bring locally and globally, whilst offering guidance for other cities around the world.
  • C40 Cities will also continue to conduct regular city-industry dialogues, bringing cities, industry and workers together to accelerate the change needed by connecting more city and business actions through a just transition. 
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