GECA’s primary purpose is to create solutions for sustainable consumption and production. One critical part of this is to assess the main drivers and threats in the Australian building sector and explore how we can catalyse the reduction of carbon emissions.
Together, building and construction activities are responsible for 39% of all carbon emissions in the world. The emissions released during the manufacturing, transportation, construction and end-of-life phases of all built assets, commonly referred to as embodied carbon, have historically been overlooked despite contributing around 11% of all global carbon emissions.
Achieving drastic cuts in all carbon emissions over the next decade is critical to keeping global temperature rise to 1.5°C. Therefore, addressing embodied carbon is crucial to fighting the climate crisis.
After recently reviewing GECA’s overarching carbon strategy, we’ve decided to focus on the following initiatives:
• Collaborate with all levels of government, associations and industry to decarbonise our building environment;
• Throughout our standards, identify the stages in the lifecycle of any product, material or service that are most detrimental in terms of carbon emissions;
• Throughout our standards, identify low-carbon, carbon-neutral and carbon-positive products and their positive implications across the whole supply chain;
• Implement a new standard strategy to improve the traceability and carbon accounting practices within our licensee’s supply chains;
• Promote the circular economy as a driver of climate action, particularly in the critical areas of cement, aluminium, steel and plastics.
GECA has joined forces with the NSW Government and WWF-Australia in a new coalition to decarbonise Australia’s building and construction industry.
The Materials & Embodied Carbon Leaders’ Alliance (MECLA) was launched in 2021 to drive reductions in embodied carbon across the building supply chain. GECA is proud to be a Founding Partner of this collaborative initiative.
Being part of the Alliance includes creating demand for greener steel, concrete, cement and aluminium. It also means supporting alternative products, including mass timber and reused and reformed waste materials that we can use to decarbonise Australia’s construction industry, with the potential to export our innovations to the world.
The Alliance seeks to align with the Paris Agreement targets and principles of the circular economy and recognise that the building and construction sector is a complex ecosystem. Therefore, MECLA includes Working Groups covering both the built environment’s demand and supply sides.
Steel manufacturing contributes significantly to worldwide carbon emissions. In 2020, every tonne of steel, on average, led to the emission of 1.851 tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. In 2020, total direct emissions from the sector represented between 7% and 9% of global carbon emissions.
GECA’s Steel & Steel Products standard places clear restrictions on carbon emissions, helping the industry to reduce its impact. The steelmaker supplying the steel must also be a member of the World Steel Association’s Climate Action Programme. Our standard also recognises certification under the current version of the Responsible Steel standard.
Concrete is the most-used building material in the world. According to the International Energy Agency’s Technology Roadmap, global cement production is predicted to grow by 12 to 23% by 2050. So it’s not surprising that the impacts of cement and concrete production on people and planet can be significant.
Cement is the source of about 8 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. The process of producing clinker, one of the main ingredients in cement, is responsible for over half of these emissions. The sector’s annual emissions will need to fall by at least 16% by 2030 to align with the Paris Agreement. GECA’s Cement, Concrete & Concrete products standard sets precise requirements that restrict carbon emissions.
GECA’s New Standard Strategy
GECA is working on a new Standards Strategy to extend carbon criteria across our lifecycle ecolabel standards, particularly those related to building materials. It will restructure all standards with consistent core criteria and additional optional criteria.
With the urgency to fight climate change, GECA’s new standard strategy will integrate carbon accounting and reduction into all standards, with different integration phases.
In the first phase of this standard strategy, GECA aims only to include carbon accounting in our standards relating to building materials. We will incorporate carbon reduction criteria in a later second phase, including stakeholder consultation to develop specific carbon reduction.
By addressing relevant carbon emission requirements in the industry, GECA’s new carbon criteria should facilitate a flexible and inclusive pathway to adopt recognised national and international carbon accounting methods and product-specific frameworks in the industry.
We’re looking forward to engaging with our stakeholders to get feedback on the proposed Standards Strategy concept, and we would like to hear from anyone who would like to contribute.