Minister Mikkonen appeals to the international construction sector: Climate-friendly construction requires swift action

Press release 2019-09-25 at 14:41

Buildings and construction consume half of the world’s natural resources and about 40 per cent of the world’s energy. The sector accounts for about one third of global greenhouse gas emissions, as population growth, urbanisation and rising sea levels further increase the need for construction. In connection with the UN Sustainable Development Summit in New York, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Krista Mikkonen appealed to the construction sector to accelerate its transition to low-carbon construction.

“We must reduce the emissions from construction by 40 per cent by 2030, and construction in the 2050s should be completely carbon neutral,” says Minister Mikkonen.

Mikkonen spoke today, on 25 September, at an event hosted by the World Green Building Council in New York, where the Council published its vision for reducing the carbon footprint of construction worldwide. In addition to Finland, the Council’s bold vision has been endorsed by major construction companies (Skanska), international consultancy offices (Ramboll), representatives of the construction industry (HeidelbergCement, Dalmia Bharat Cement, Saint-Gobain), a number of cities around the world (Oslo, Vancouver, the C40 cities) and the search engine company Google.

Creating a well-functioning circular economy for the construction sector

So far, efforts have been made to reduce the carbon footprint of buildings and construction by improving energy efficiency. Energy efficiency will continue to be important, but we must also reduce emissions in new areas, especially the manufacture and recycling of materials.

“We must achieve a well-functioning circular economy in the construction sector; otherwise, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be next to impossible. Our planet’s carrying capacity simply cannot sustain the current increase in material consumption,” says Mikkonen.

Low-carbon construction supports Finland’s national climate objectives

Finland is taking measures to accelerate low-carbon construction in line with Prime Minister Antti Rinne's Government Programme. The aim of the roadmap for low-carbon construction prepared by the Ministry of the Environment is to make the carbon footprint of buildings part of Finland’s building regulations by 2025.

“Restricting the emissions from buildings and construction by law is one of the ways Finland aims to achieve its national goal of carbon neutrality by 2035 and carbon negativity in the 2040s,” says Mikkonen.

The Ministry of the Environment is currently piloting a method for assessing low-carbon construction, developing an emissions database for construction products and looking into economic instruments to guide low-carbon construction. At the same time, the Ministry is working to promote the use of wood as a building material, which is an effective way to reduce the carbon footprint of construction.

Strengthening Nordic cooperation

Finland will continue its international cooperation on low-carbon construction immediately after the Sustainable Development Summit in New York. In October, the Ministry of the Environment and the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket) will organise the first Nordic Climate Forum for Construction, where they will explore practices for harmonising low-carbon construction and zoning across the Nordic countries. The ministers responsible for construction in the Nordic countries, for their part, will discuss joint actions to promote low-carbon construction at a meeting on 10 October in Reykjavik.

“Although Finland's annual emissions make up only a small proportion of the total global emissions, we can be a bigger player in solving the climate crisis than our size might suggest. The world needs low-carbon planning and construction solutions, and we have excellent conditions for developing them,” Mikkonen says.

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Inquiries

Harri Hakaste
Senior Architect
+358 295 250 074
harri.hakaste@ym.fi

Matti Kuittinen
Senior Specialist
+358 295 250 268
matti.kuittinen@ym.fi