Throughout 2020, the Carbon Leadership Forum invested significant resources in developing an array of resources to support effective embodied carbon policies. Capping that effort on January 1, 2021, the CLF announced the release of an Embodied Carbon Policy Toolkit, offering policy-makers, industry professionals, and climate activists a carefully designed package to guide the development of decarbonization policies at municipal, state, and national levels.
Policy is an essential step towards creating the scale of action required to rapidly reduce embodied carbon in construction. Along with a rigorous scientific approach to developing tools and data for decarbonization, innovative policies are an essential component for creating change. — CLF Senior Researcher Meghan Lewis
Embodied carbon policies take a variety of forms, depending on the level of government involvement and the scope of behavior the policy is intended to address. Examples include:
- Procurement policies (like Buy Clean and material-specific variations)
- Climate Action Plans
- Building codes
- City zoning, land use, and building regulations and incentives, including building and material reuse policies
- Executive orders addressing embodied carbon of building and industrial sector emissions
CLF founder and executive director Kate Simonen emphasized the urgency of using policy as a lever to address embodied carbon on a wide scale:
The logical conclusion of the Paris Agreement is that we must drive carbon emissions down in every sector and must approach these reductions in a systematic way.We already know how to create energy-efficient buildings, and we’ve made good progress on the energy side of the equation. Reducing the impact of building materials and construction —as much as or more than 50% of the life cycle carbon of a building—is both important and under-addressed. We must act now to implement effective low-embodied carbon policies and practices. Emissions released now are more critical than emissions released later–we don’t have time to wait. — CLF Executive Director Kate Simonen
The policy primer series begins with an introduction to procurement policies, also known as Buy Clean. Keep checking back to see additional primers on other policy areas.
Current Embodied Carbon Policy in the US
Embodied carbon policies are spreading rapidly across the United States. Hover over the map below to learn more about existing and proposed policies. For more information about the individual policies, see the links for each policy below the map.