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Commissioner Timmermans advocates for wood products

02.02.2022

Commissioner Timmermans advocates for wood products

The Executive Vice-President Timmermans (on behalf of the European Commission) answered to a written question from Italian ID group Members of the EU Parliament on the “Building materials neutrality principle” saying   “Carbon removals can be generated by replacing energy-intensive materials with carbon-storing materials, as demonstrated by several Commission studies and other scientific evidence. The EU reports net removals associated with harvested wood products, a reporting proposed to be extended to other carbon-storing products. Using carbon-storing products in buildings can contribute to turn the construction sector from a source of emissions to a carbon sink, as highlighted by the Renovation Wave Strategy and the EU Forest Strategy. The promotion of carbon-storing products is fully compatible with the principle of technological neutrality as it is a feature that can be assessed for all types of products or materials”.

Reported below copy of the written question from Italian ID group MEPs and the answer of the VP Timmermans on “Building materials neutrality principle”:

Parliamentary questions 23 November 2021

Question for written answer  E-005231/2021
to the Commission Rule 138 Paolo Borchia (ID), Marco Campomenosi (ID), Marco Dreosto (ID)

 Answer in writing - Subject: Building materials neutrality principle

In a number of Commission communications and/or related initiatives (e.g. the New European Bauhaus), bio?based materials, in particular wood, are presented as more sustainable than other materials. The claim is that they act as a carbon sink to reduce the carbon footprint of construction.

These statements, which take into account the building construction phase only, have no scientific basis and are controversial. Any evaluation of a building or infrastructure (its carbon footprint included) must be carried out using formal scientific tools and procedures already in place in the EU and across the world (such as life cycle assessment, environmental product declarations and the future Level(s) framework), covering the entire construction life cycle, end of life included.

Any a priori preference would lead to a distortion of the market owing to a misleading perception of different materials and would frustrate a proper evaluation of the sustainability impact of a building or infrastructure.

1. Is the Commission supporting the principle of material neutrality in every communication, regulation and policy it produces?

2. Are all materials to be evaluated in a fair way according to their contribution to the final performance of a building or infrastructure over its entire life, via scientifically based tool and rules that can guarantee a level playing field for all technologies?

Answer given by Executive Vice-President Timmermans on behalf of the European Commission (1.2.2022)

The European Climate Law requires the EU to balance greenhouse gas emissions and removals no later than 2050 and to achieve negative emissions thereafter. The EU needs therefore to increase carbon removals, as highlighted by the communication ‘Sustainable Carbon Cycles’.

In this regard, the construction sector presents a major challenge. According to the 2020 circular economy action plan, it accounts for about 50% of all extracted material and is responsible for over 35% of the EU’s total waste generation and 5-12% of total emissions. Greater material efficiency could save 80% of those emissions, while a variety of approaches could store carbon in the built environment.

In particular, carbon removals can be generated by replacing energy-intensive materials with carbon-storing materials, as demonstrated by several Commission studies and other scientific evidence. The EU reports net removals associated with harvested wood products, a reporting proposed to be extended to other carbon-storing products. Using carbon-storing products in buildings can contribute to turn the construction sector from a source of emissions to a carbon sink, as highlighted by the Renovation Wave Strategy and the EU Forest Strategy.

The promotion of carbon-storing products is fully compatible with the principle of technological neutrality as it is a feature that can be assessed for all types of products or materials. In this perspective, the carbon removals certification framework, announced in the 2022 Commission Work Programme, will establish the necessary rules for the development

References:

Kuittinen, M., et al. (2021). How can carbon be stored in the built environment? A review of potential options. Architectural Science Review, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/00038628.2021.1896471

Trinomics, VITO, Wageningen University, Research, Technische Universität Graz and Ricardo (2021) Evaluation of the climate benefits of the use of harvested wood products in the construction sector and assessment of remuneration schemes. https://dx.doi.org/10.2834/421958

DG RTD, COWI, Nova Institute, & Utrecht University (2021) Carbon economy: Studies on support to research and innovation policy in the area of bio based products and services. https://dx.doi.org/10.2777/004098

Grassi, G., Fiorese, G., Pilli, R., Jonsson, K., Blujdea, V., Korosuo, A. and Vizzarri, M., Brief on the role of the forest-based bioeconomy in mitigating climate change through carbon storage and material substitution, Sanchez Lopez, J., Jasinevi?ius, G. and Avraamides, M. editor(s), European Commission, 2021, JRC124374.

Churkina, G., et al. (2020). Buildings as a global carbon sink. Nature Sustainability, 3(4), 269–276. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0462-4

Hoxha, E. et al. (2020). Biogenic carbon in buildings: A critical overview of LCA methods. Buildings and Cities, 1(1), 504–524. https://doi.org/10.5334/bc.46

7 40.4 MtCO2e in 2019. See EU NIR 2021. https://unfccc.int/documents/275968

Source: EU Parlaiment