Construction Site Machinery in the Clean Vehicles Directive

ZEC CVD cover

Why construction machinery emissions matter?

Construction is a fundamental component of human civilisation. It lies at the heart of economic and social development. In fact, the construction industry generates roughly 9% of European GDP and accounts for 18 million jobs. In spite of this, construction sites are also a major source of environmental and human health damage throughout all aspects of the construction process. In a majority of European cities construction sites make up a significant share of overall emissions of both CO2 and air pollutants, while also contributing to noise pollution and disruption. In Oslo for example, construction accounts for 18% of total CO2 emissions, while in Germany construction emissions exceed those originating from domestic air and rail travel combined. In spite of that, construction emissions remain inadequately addressed via EU legislation.

A number of different pathways and tools exist to enable efficiency gains and emission cuts from construction site machinery, ranging from engine and machine component improvements; process optimisation; dedicated training of machine operators to reduce fuel use; to the deployment of alternative technological solutions such as electrification of the machinery. Electrification holds the largest CO2 mitigation potential, while delivering significant environmental, human health and economic benefits. The Committee for European Construction Manufacturers (CECE), states in its own report that “[electrification] results in 100% local CO2 reduction, and 100% total CO2 reduction when using renewable energy sources to produce the electricity. Even where this is not the case, reduction is still in the region of 10-15%”.

The technology already exists today, with a growing number of construction manufacturers developing electric models which boast higher efficiency rates, lower operating costs, low noise pollution, and zero tail-pipe emissions of air and climate pollutants. As is the case with almost all new technologies, however, there is a challenge relating to economies of scale, underlining the need to boost market demand for clean and zero emission construction.

CVD recast: an opportunity to create demand for clean construction

The ongoing recast of the EU Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD) offers a unique opportunity to create this market demand by extending public authorities’ procurement obligations to construction site machinery and equipment. While the scope of the existing legislation has to date been limited to light- and heavyduty road vehicles, there is a clear rationale to expand its provisions to non-road mobile machinery in order to further reduce urban dwellers’ exposure to health damaging levels of air and noise pollution. The need for such an extension has already been acknowledged and supported via tabled amendments by a number of MEPs from the S&D, Greens, EFDD and GUE/NGL groups.  Further support, however, needs to be mobilised within both the EP and among Member States as negotiations advance.

This paper provides guidance on how to include construction machinery within the scope of the Clean Vehicles Directive.

Authors: Teodora Serafimova and Mark Preston Aragones