Revised EU rules for construction products miss the mark on sustainability

Negotiations on the EU Construction Products Regulation (CPR) have concluded, with green groups disappointed that sustainability requirements for construction products continue to lack vision and oversight. The EU’s failure to take meaningful action to regulate this hugely polluting sector means that for the time being the construction industry has dodged decarbonisation, derailing the EU’s path to carbon neutrality.

The EU must act to lower the massive environmental impact of the construction sector [1] so that it can meet its commitments to cut carbon footprints from buildings [2] and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis. The law finalised yesterday could have set mandatory EU requirements to eliminate the worst-performing products – as environmental organisations have long called for [3]. Unfortunately, the provisional CPR agreement falls short of this ambition.

Pollute-as-usual for construction products

The revised CPR is a menu of possibilities without a clear vision, neglecting its goal of delivering sustainable construction products to the European market. Despite acknowledging the need to limit the environmental and climate impacts of construction products, many provisions are far too general and fail to provide specific guidance on implementation – or plans, deadlines, or targets. The role of the European Commission is also left ambiguous and without a clear mandate, further delaying any change.

Construction products will continue to rely on mandatory standards developed in industry-dominated fora with limited oversight from EU institutions and limited participation by civil society. Higher ambitions for sustainable products will be unlikely, with experience repeatedly proving that relying on industry self-regulation simply does not work [4].

Even some of the more positive developments are let down by inadequate ambition that prevents proper delivery. For example, manufacturers will be obliged to disclose – for the first time ever – environmental information. But this obligation only covers Global Warming Potential (GWP) and ignores other environmental impacts (such as water and resource use, chemicals, and land use impacts) until 2028 and 2030. So, until 2030 the construction industry will only be obliged to disclose approximately half of the significant environmental damage it causes.

There is some good news. Despite last-minute derogations introduced into the text, the EU will finally see the development of EU green public procurement (GPP) rules for construction products, starting at the end of 2026. Finding a solution to the currently fragmented GPP systems across Member States, these new rules (if ambitious) could secure green products with public spending on construction activities – 14% of the EU’s GDP [5].

Stronger ecodesign rules sidelined for construction

Despite the landmark inclusion of construction products in the European Commission’s initial ESPR proposal, ecodesign remains a possibility for construction – but not a reality. Provisions on implementation are too vague, without clear targets or deadlines for action. Unlike other products covered by ecodesign, the pen to write requirements for construction products has been outsourced to a technical expert group (the CPR Technical Expert Group), in which climate and environmental matters are not prioritised.

The agreement is also particularly worrying for cement, which has been left out of the scope of new ecodesign rules and beyond EU intervention until 2029 [6]. However, with an unambitious CPR also failing to hold the sector to account, it appears that the incumbent industry has secured another six years of business as usual.

Federica Pozzi, Programme Manager at ECOS – Environmental Coalition on Standards, said:

The EU has delayed sustainable construction products by a decade, surrendering instead to the wish list of one of the most polluting sectors – one that has so far taken insufficient steps to decarbonise. Without targets or ambition, the CPR has no vision, and it provides no clarity to an industry in which decarbonisation is an inevitable necessity. This will hurt the competitiveness of the construction sector, including progressive industry players that are at the core of its transition. It seems that “making sustainable products the norm” does not apply to all sectors after all.

Laetitia Aumont, Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said:

The EU’s green building goals are compromised by this law’s failure to promote low-carbon materials. These highly polluting materials will be a massive roadblock to EU building and carbon goals in the next decades. The EU must stop being naive, cease relying on industry self-regulation, and address the environmental hazards of construction for a sustainable future.

Notes to editors

[1] Construction has a vast carbon footprint, with its products (including cement, steel, and insulation) responsible for 250 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in the EU annually – equivalent to flying around the world 38 million times. The sector uses 50% of all extracted resources and generates 30% of our waste.

[2] EU governments agreed last Thursday to calculate and cut the global warming potential (GWP) of all new EU buildings across their entire lifecycle starting 2030, a large portion of which is the embodied emissions from the production of construction materials. 

[3] Joint letter from ECOS and the EBB alongside 21 other organisations, ‘Recommendations for an environmentally ambitious Construction Products Regulation (CPR)’

[4] More than 5 billion tonnes of CO2 have been emitted by the construction sector since the publication of the first CPR due to the industry’s unwillingness to move forward with sustainability requirements in standards.

[5] Advancing Green Public Procurement and Low-Carbon Procurement in Europe: Insights | International Institute for Sustainable Development (

[6] Despite being a product with one of the highest climate impacts, cement was not included in the list of priority sectors in the recently agreed EU Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR). Instead, it has been given until 2029 to take steps to decarbonise using tools like the CPR, after which the European Commission could step in if not enough has been done. This will very likely delay meaningful action.

Revised EU rules for construction products miss the mark on sustainability
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