Impact of circular economy measures in the European Union built environment on a net-zero target

Maria Sharmina, Dimitrios Pappas, Kate Scott, Alejandro Gallego Schmid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental benefits of circular economy (CE) measures, such as waste reduction, need to be weighed against the urgent need to reduce CO2 emissions to zero, in line with the Paris Agreement climate goals of 1.5-2°C. Several studies have quantified CO2 emissions associated with CE measures in the construction sector in different EU countries, with the literature’s focus ranging from bricks and insulation products, to individual buildings, to the entire construction sector. We find that there is a lack of synthesis and comparison of such studies to each other and to the EU CO2 emission reduction targets, showing a need for estimating the EU-wide mitigation potential of CE strategies. To evaluate the contribution that CE strategies can make to reducing the EU’s emissions, we scale up the CO2 emissions estimates from the existing studies to the EU level and compare them from both construction-element and sector-wide perspectives. Our analysis shows that average CO2 savings from sector-wide estimates (mean 39.28 Mt CO2 eq./yr) slightly exceeded construction-element savings (mean 25.06 Mt CO2 eq./yr). We also find that a conservative estimate of 234 Mt CO2 eq./yr in combined emission savings from CE strategies targeting construction elements can significantly contribute towards managing the EU-27 remaining carbon budget. While this is a significant mitigation potential, our analysis suggests caution as to how the performance and trade-offs of CE strategies are evaluated, in relation to wider sustainability concerns beyond material and waste considerations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCircular Economy and Sustainability
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Impact of circular economy measures in the European Union built environment on a net-zero target'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this