the week: buildings carbon budget website launched , and more

Past week, finally we could launch the website with exploring calculations of the remaining Carbon budget to stay below 2 degrees of global warming, and what can or can not be done with that to sustain the built environment. See

The first three essays are uploaded, but its intended for many to follow. It’s a initiative from academics united in iiSBE: the international NGO active for a sustainable built environment.

Since consensus grew past year about the maximum to be emitted CO2 budget, before the threshold of 2 degrees is past, there was a clear starting point to explore what is ( im-) possible with that budget. The budget is less then 800 GT CO2-e, and can be live followed on the carbon counter at the Guardian’s website:

If we divide the 800 Gt budget by all global citizens, it shows each of us is maximum entitled to 111 ton CO2. The average Dutch emissions per person for example  are currently 10 tons /year, so the budget will be spent in 11 years, in 2028 !. For the Netherlands as a whole, the budget is 2 Gt ( with the 2 degree target, with 1,5 degree its much less) . Only part of that can be put to work to sustain the built environment ( building windparks, insulating houses) . And how much would that be? Was one of the questions. The explorations can be found on the website , but I can already tell, it’s not that much….

We are constantly fooling ourselves, if we don’t make that kind of straight forward calculations. Which again was confirmed by a few other publications last week.

There is much speculation about improvements in energy efficiency that can be established under the theme “smart”: smart cities, smart homes etc. Last week a paper was published that showed that much is wishful thinking: Smart homes hardly affect the energy use. The paper can be found here:

And if that was not enough, the EU published a report studying the effect of CDM ad Carbon offset’s (CDM: Clean development mechanism, agreed in the Kyoto agreement, that countries can compensate CO2 emissions by measures abroad ). Your conscience is regularly relieved by the announcement that travel is no problem, as long as you buy a pardon in the form of carbon offsets: you pay and someone promises to plant a tree for you, far away. Problem solved. Regrettably no… In 85 % of such projects offered, its highly unlikely that CO2 emissions are in fact established.

The report is here to find:

We like to be optimistic and talk and innovate ourselves out of the crises. But its not like that with CO2 emissions: it’s serious, and there is very little maneuvering space for new things. We will simply have to reduce our CO2 emissions a lot, in consumption, before investing in new products and innovations. As Thomas Lützkendorf shows in his essay, we will have to get around with 1 ton of CO2 emissions per capita-year. Which is not much . The German ministry of environment just published a report to prepare people for this: About Carbon neutral lifestyle’s: ( In English)

And most shocking was the launch of the Concrete Sustainability Council. With labels for green concrete…. ( )

Its a shameless copying of the image created by ‘ FSC’: CSC for concrete. But they don’t regrow anything , just greening themselves. Recently the cement industry already lobbied an extra 10 years of free emission rights from the EU (from 2020-2030). And now they pretend they are sustainable with their own CSC logo for concrete. While one of the most important issues, energy/CO2 is just one of many parameters in that label, counting for only 13% in their cement assessment: and cement again is hidden in the concrete assessment, where cement only counts for 25% . The ultimate trick, which industry used before: Sustainability assessments like LEED and Breeam are covering so many topics with weighing factors that everything is hidden. Now one of the materials in such multi-category lists, creates another multi-category list. Pack it in a lot of rubbish and it becomes rubbish.

I have nothing against concrete. Its a fine material . Only, materials cant be sustainable, only their use can. And you should not use a certain material if other alternatives combine similar functions with lower impact. ( which counts for all materials) . But I hate it when they try to fool everyone with fake labels and assessments.

Its the more shocking since from the contribution by Guillaume Habert on the website, its shown clearly that to fulfill the global housing need ( with 3 billion more to come) the only option is to rely only on biobased bulk materials. No room for concrete or steel constructions. No room for marginal benefits, no room for continuing but with offsets, no room for huge housing ‘make overs’.

I am afraid that we are far to optimistic, and constant victim of ‘innovative’ industries, opportunistic governments, greenwashing offsets, and out-smarted by handy campaigns. Its sounds ok, but it is not, and its not substantiated. Thats why I started the buildingscarbonbudget  website : clear simple analyses, and to face the consequences.

Author: ronald rovers