As if further evidence were needed, the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report concludes that climate change is intensifying; that human influence has warmed the climate at unprecedented rates; and that we need to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions1.
Despite the numerous positive pledges to achieve net zero emissions, however, humanity is not on track with climate objectives. Indeed, there is a worrying disconnect between the Paris Agreement’s main objective to limit temperature increases to well below 2°C and the short-term actions needed to get us there.
The building sector is no exception. This matters greatly because buildings account for 28 percent of global emissions; 36 percent in Europe2; and 40 percent in the United States3. In the EU, around 75 percent of buildings are energy inefficient, and most of them will still be in use in 2050.
The conclusion is clear: succeeding on climate action requires succeeding on making the world’s buildings far more energy efficient than they are today. The good news is that constructing new and renovating existing buildings for greater energy efficiency is not rocket science. It requires using well-known building materials and practices.
Encouragingly, there is strong popular support for making our homes and buildings more energy efficient. In public opinion polling we conducted with OnePoll, we found that overall, almost 80 percent of the 14 000 respondents in Europe, the UK, and the United States said they would renovate their homes and more than 70 percent said they backed mandatory energy performance standards, provided the right kind of financial and administrative support4.
The EU is heavily prioritising and providing financing for building renovation as part of its overall “Fit-for-55” green transition strategy. And multiple jurisdictions in the United States have either established or are considering establishing energy efficiency standards for buildings. The key challenge, especially in the EU, is to connect the supply of money with the demand for it. That is the focus of a report ROCKWOOL did together with Cambridge Econometrics, which you can read more about on our website.
Circling back to reaching global climate goals, my conclusion is that we need to move beyond the “pledge game” and focus on creating short-term results. Short-term targets create greater accountability, since the people involved in defining the goals also are responsible for delivering them. We know in business that reaching long-term goals requires short-term action.
For building renovation, it is essential to ensure that the renovations qualify as “deep”, meaning energy savings of at least 60 percent. This matters because home- and building-owners do not renovate often, typically only once. And we know that superficial renovation creates superficial climate, health, and economic benefits.
At ROCKWOOL, this is also the approach we take to renovating our own buildings. During 2021, we made good progress on our energy efficiency in owned offices goal, completing the renovation of an additional five renovated buildings. One of these was our main office in Gladbeck, Germany, where we succeeded in reducing the building’s energy demand by 84 percent. You can read more about this renovation and another in Poland on page 13.
We also made good progress on other sustainability goals, meeting our 2022 interim goals on CO2 intensity and reclaimed materials, for example. We also took significant measures to decarbonise several of our factories, the impact of which will kick-in in the coming years.
On our safety performance, most importantly, we did not have any fatalities in 2021. Our Lost Time Incident rate did increase, however. We have initiated several measures to improve the LTI trend, including additional safety audits at the factories with the highest LTI rates together with extra focus on sharing best practice across the Group.
You can read further about the progress we are making toward meeting our various sustainability goals on page 9 and in the Factbook and data section.
As ever at ROCKWOOL, we remain optimistic about the future. Especially in terms of creating a healthier, more sustainable built environment, we know what to do and how to do it. The imperative for the sector now is to pick up the pace and get things done. We look forward to working together with others to do our part.
Jens Birgersson, CEO
1. IPCC, Climate change 2021, The physical science basis report, 2021, Sixth Assessment Report (ipcc.ch)
2. EU Commission, 2020, In focus: Energy efficiency in buildings, https://ec.europa.eu/info/news/focus-energy-efficiency-buildings-2020-feb-17_en
3. Environmental and Energy study institute, 2020, https://www.eesi.org/topics/built-infrastructure/description
4. Cambridge Econometrics and ROCKWOOL, Unlocking the benefits of building renovation, 2021, https://www.politico.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/01/rw-cambecono-cop26-report.pdf