With many countries preparing for a possible second wave of Covid-19, it may seem premature to be already talking about the post-Covid recovery – yet this conversation needs to happen now, since it is critical that this recovery does not jeopardise Europe’s ability to make good on its environmental targets for the foreseeable future.

Accounting for 9% of the EU economy and providing 18 million direct jobs, the construction sector has a key role to play in the recovery. Green Deal initiatives like the Renovation Wave and the New Circular Economy Action Plan can ensure that we support this sector whilst simultaneously raising its environmental performance.

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A circular construction sector is increasingly recognised as a key pillar of the Renovation Wave, as EU policy-makers begin to explore ways to cut CO2 emissions by reusing building materials and reducing waste generated by construction and demolition. This is highly encouraging, but still overlooks the other side of the coin – emissions stemming from the construction equipment being used, which are equally important to address.

A recent independent study shows that renting construction equipment leads to emissions reductions in many cases of at least 30% over the full lifecycle of the product, with reductions up to 50% attained when renting is coupled with optimised use of the product.

This is one area where hard legislation does not provide all the answers. Guidance, training and dissemination of good practices is required to promote low carbon business models and embed circularity principles in the sector. This is particularly relevant in the context of public procurement, and something the European Commission should consider in its upcoming ‘Public Buyers for Climate and Environment’ initiative.

A rapid transition towards a low carbon, circular construction sector is only viable if the EU and its Member States ensure coherence across all relevant policy areas such as climate, energy, environment, transport, digitalisation and skills.

Next year’s EU Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment offers an opportunity to do just that – to think outside the box and consider the multitude of ways to enhance low carbon construction practices beyond material usage alone. Equipment rental should form a part of this equation. Renting makes sense from both an economic and environmental perspective, as renting construction equipment reduces costs for industry, while promoting the shared use of resources and helps reduce carbon emissions.

Even in these testing times, our industry is not standing still. Before the pandemic, we were working to come up with solutions to contribute to the Green Deal, and this work is continuing apace. The ERA’s recently published Sustainable Supplier Framework is designed to encourage the take up of greener rental options by defining minimum sustainability requirements for all suppliers to rental companies.

The ERA is also working on an innovative new tool to measure the carbon footprint of construction equipment and support more sustainable choices. The ERA CO2 Calculator, which will be released in early 2021, will enable companies to make efficient and environmentally friendly choices when using construction equipment.

Overall, renting equipment is one of the most impactful ways to reduce the carbon footprint of construction equipment. It will help bring both Europe and the world closer to meeting the Paris climate goals. EU policy-makers have a unique opportunity to recognise this role as part of many upcoming European Green Deal initiatives, including the Strategy for a Sustainable Built Environment, the Renovation Wave, and dedicated guidance for Member States on green public procurement.

Now more than ever is the time to act decisively and recognise the full potential of our sector in helping Europe get back on its feet.

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