City Industry Dialogue on Clean Construction moves forward during C40 Summit

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A scenario 5 years from now:  Two people walking through the city centre, one says to the other: “Can you imagine there was a time when it was allowed to use a diesel engine in the middle of a city?”. These are the words of Heidi Sørensen, Director of the Oslo Climate Agency. 

Does this sound too good to be true? Eventually, this could soon become reality for some cities which are working on eliminating their emissions from construction sites. 

During the C40 Summit in Copenhagen, Bellona has joined and contributed to the first Pan-European Master Class on Clean Construction and zero emission non-road mobile machinery (NRMMs) and Market Dialogue. The event offered cities representatives the opportunity to discuss and learn best practices on how to counter emissions from construction, no matter the city’s level of experienceAll stakeholders involved in the construction sector were able to find a common ground and discuss how to move forward in implementing greener practices within the field. 

C40-BLOXHUB11 Masterclass Panel: Heidi Sørensen, Jørgen Abildgaard, Helene Chartier and Bosman Didier. (cc: Daniela De Lorenzo)

Most input on the topic came from the current, very advanced work done by the Norwegian capital. The Oslo Climate Agency has adopted a new climate strategy, aiming to bring emissions from all municipal construction sites to zero by 2030 and eliminating all emissions from the city’s construction sites by 2025. In this context, Oslo initiated the world’s first zero emission construction site which plans to pedestrianise a section of one of the city’s most used streets. In her experience, Heidi Sørensen stated that ‘’the project proved not to be too difficult and that an early engagement with industry and innovative procurement initiatives were key for its success in moving forward’’. Head of Zero Carbon Development at C40, Helene Chartier, referred to the pilot project in Oslo as a good example, creating a precedent as ‘’the financial viability of the project opens the pathway for other similar projects.’’ 

As host of the World Mayor Summit, Copenhagen presented its climate plan as well as the main challenges. The new climate strategy aims to make the city become climate neutral by 2025, committing to build all new municipality buildings and to renovate existing buildings according to low energy principles. According to Jørgen Abildgaard ‘’getting emissions from 80% down to 100% is the most difficult step,’’ and the construction sector is part of these 20%. However, Maria Matzen, Legal Advisor at Bird&Bird, presented a cross border project for NRMMs between Copenhagen and Oslo aiming to align procurement practices and to find the best way to make procurement for construction easier and scalable. Through this project an open pool of all machinery was developed, which fulfils the criteria and can therefore be used in construction projects.

The public procurement conversations have been a chicken or the egg dilemma: does or doesn’t it come first?  From a banking perspective, Bosman Didier from EIB said that in times when there’s a lack of EU regulations or political commitment at local level the market’s role becomes even more important in kick starting innovative, sustainable projects. Andrew Waugh, from Waugh Architects although positive on public procurement policy development, addressed the fact that waiting for policy to implement regulations is not a luxury that we can afford at this stage, hence the need to speed up the process and act now. 

The City of Paris found it necessary to challenge the market by shifting set priorities and criteria for the projectselection process. In fact, the French capital has started to only sell land to the best projects in terms of sustainability, and not to the highest bidder. Paris’ Marion Waller said that since “land areas are so valuable, cities are in the position to demand clean construction – and markets are responding”. Of course, Waller said, this makes construction projects more expensive, but setting criteria sends the right signal to the market and will lower costs in the long run. 

C40-BLOXHUB6 Marion Waller explains Paris' vision on public procurement. (cc: Daniela De Lorenzo)

Espen Nicolaysen from the City of Oslo introduced Oslo’s procurement criteria for evaluating construction contractors. The city council has recently agreed to change the criteria, providing additional weighting on environmental criteria, to a minimum of 20%, with the recommended weight set to 30%. 

Francien Bouwmeister from the City of Amsterdam said the city’s strategy is ‘’to set minimum criteria for contractors and then to predictably increase targets throughout the contract length,’’. The environmental cost calculator that the city uses is based on life-cycle analysis, however, Amsterdam still has to agree on who will pay initial investments needed to kick-start zero emission construction projects.

C40_Dialogue03 Christian Eriksen leading the working group on Machine Market Development (cc: Daniela De Lorenzo)

Procurement opportunities and challenges were also discussed by other stakeholders. Panellists representing the suppliers side highlighted the need for buyers to engage with the market early in tender processes in order to influence a projects design, which can help minimise emissions during the construction project. Richard Lively from Cummins gave insight into the company’s work on electrification which includes investing in electric machinery and road vehicles. Cummins, one of the largest diesel and gas engine producers, plans to develop electric and hydrogen solutions in order to support the transition to clean transport and construction. However, he mentioned that the barriers the company is facing are infrastructure and energy supply as well as a joint approach between policy regulations and market incentives. 

The panels sprang out questions that participants could address during eight working groups: Bellona’s Christian Eriksen and Mark Preston Aragonès led conversations on machinery development and machinery criteria for public procurement. 

In this context, we introduced our latest report “Zero Emission Construction Sites: Status 2019” which presents current policy gaps, the challenges and the solution in countering emissions from construction sites. 

Bellona Europa

europe@bellona.org