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Climate action and humanity’s ‘code red’

This article is part of the World Green Building Week 2021 editorial series highlighting the role sustainable buildings play in #BuildingResilience to climate change and for people and economies.

Provided by Quentin Galland, Public Affairs Director, Knauf Insulation, partner of WorldGBC Europe Regional Network.


Tragic floods, devastating wildfires, catastrophic cyclones, extreme winters and unbearable summers, 2021 continues to be defined by extreme weather events in every region.

And, as the world counts down to November’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, and global leaders reflect on the fact that 2020 was the warmest year on record, those extreme weather warnings are starker than ever.

According to the latest report by scientists for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activity is ‘unequivocally’ changing the climate in unprecedented ways — findings described as a “code red for humanity” by the UN Secretary General António Guterres.

36% of Europe’s emissions caused by buildings

So, what can we do? The report makes it clear that unless there are strong and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions “limiting warming to close to 1.5ºC will be beyond reach”.

At Knauf Insulation we are committed to a sustainability strategy For A Better World.

As buildings are responsible for 36% of carbon emissions in Europe, we have consistently campaigned for energy efficient building renovation to be put at the heart of the European Union’s 2050 ambition to be the first zero carbon continent in the world.

Renovation requires a focus on quality

We have welcomed plans by the European Commission to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030, renovate 3% of all public buildings every year and the channelling of revenues from the Emissions Trading System into climate action projects such as renovation initiatives.

But, when it comes to renovation, we want a focus on quality and quantity. In Europe, fewer than 1% of all buildings are renovated every year and this rate has to triple, at least. And when it comes to quality, high quality renovation work and materials must deliver real performance, that is quantifiable, reliable before-and-after results in terms of reducing emissions.

In 2019 we created a new company, Knauf Energy Solutions, to gain deeper understanding of building renovation. Our insight can be reduced to two key lessons. First, attention to detail during a retrofit is crucial. Secondly, it is vital to objectively measure the outcome of that renovation work in terms of achieved energy and emissions savings. In other words, ensure quantifiable real performance results deliver quality work.

Deep renovation standards

Building on this principle, the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in Europe later this year offers an opportunity to introduce a deep renovation standard and minimum energy performance standards for buildings.

But again, to ensure the success of any standards it is critical to have trust in renovation results and that is why Knauf Insulation is also calling for a harmonised EU-certification scheme for energy efficiency meters.


What is World Green Building Week?

World Green Building Week is the world’s largest campaign to accelerate sustainable buildings for everyone, everywhere. Organised by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), it is led by our global network of 70 Green Building Councils and their 36,000 members.

Join us from the 20th–24th of September 2021 to find out how our network is accelerating the Sustainable Development Goals towards an inclusive and resilient net zero built environment.