• The two-year initiative will support city leaders in London, Madrid and Oslo to pilot equitable and viable construction and renovation models.

Today, C40 Cities launches VISIBLE, a project that will harness the power of cities to decarbonise their built environments in a way that is both just and economically viable. 

The two-year project will bring city leaders and officials in London, Madrid and Oslo together with representatives from workers unions, housing providers, construction industry actors, asset managers and finance and development stakeholders to explore how social equity and inclusion can be embedded into our urban decarbonisation journey. It will reimagine the construction, renovation and operation of our buildings in a way that includes and benefits city residents and workers, and considers the social value of our built environment.

Our built environment contributes close to 40% of our global greenhouse gas emissions and 35% of our total waste generation. The sector is Europe’s largest industrial employer: 15 million people work directly in the supply chain, and a further 33 million migrant workers are estimated to be indirectly employed. Buildings are symbolic of our cities – from the way they look, to the opportunities they offer for prosperity, and the quality of homes and workplaces they provide. Yet residents and workers are currently absent from transition thinking. 

C40 will bring together building stakeholders to propose new, inclusive and economically viable business models for development, renovation and regeneration, convene multi-stakeholder dialogues, conduct research and support demonstrative pilot projects in each city, laying the groundwork for policy measures the three pilot cities may adopt to decarbonise their built environment. C40 will share the project’s outcomes across its global network of cities.

The project will help the pilot cities mainstream the delivery of affordable low-carbon housing; mandating measurement of whole life cycle carbon in new developments; scaling up retrofitting; and reuse of materials – in ways that are both socially equitable and economically viable. The project will build a robust consensus among stakeholders within each city of how social equity and workers’ rights can be embedded in the sector’s transition. The wider network of C40 city leaders and officials advocating for policy change will be equipped with practical examples of a fairer and lower-carbon sector, one that leaves nobody behind and has the backing of the diversity of stakeholders that will deliver and be impacted by the transition.

Kevin Austin, C40’s Deputy Executive Director, said: “Project VISIBLE addresses the built environment’s combined crises of climate impact, housing unaffordability and job insecurity in a holistic way that brings to light the multi-faceted opportunities an inclusive transition will bring. Over the last five years, C40’s cities have been moving at pace towards net zero, with policy and processes to support the decarbonisation of buildings; but the voice of those who live in and work on our buildings has been absent. We are excited to collaborate with mayors and city leaders from London, Madrid and Oslo to create opportunities for those previously unheard voices from resident and labour rights groups, alongside the more traditionally-recognised industry actors, to jointly chart the way forward.”

Cristina Gamboa, CEO of the World Green Building Council, said: “This project is an important moment for the sector to broaden its lens on the future and to understand the way its transition must support and benefit the end users it serves. We will be supporting C40’s work to empower cities to set clear trajectories and enabling conditions for decarbonising the construction industry in areas from procurement to construction, ownership and operation that, importantly, work within market and viability constraints.”

Project VISIBLE is supported by Laudes Foundation. Laudes works with partners to inspire and challenge industry to harness its power for good in response to the dual crises of inequality and climate breakdown.

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