Humanity’s ‘code red’ and why we need climate action now

Tragic floods, devastating wildfires, catastrophic cyclones, extreme winters and unbearable summers, 2021 continues to be defined by extreme weather events in every region.


And, as the world counts down to November’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, and global leaders reflect on the fact that 2020 was the warmest year on record, those extreme weather warnings are starker than ever.

According to the latest report by scientists for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), human activity is ‘unequivocally’ changing the climate in unprecedented ways — findings described as a “code red for humanity” by the UN Secretary General António Guterres.

36% of Europe’s emissions caused by buildings

So, what can we do? The report makes it clear that unless there are strong and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions “limiting warming to close to 1.5ºC will be beyond reach”.

At Knauf Insulation we are committed to a sustainability strategy For A Better World — a message we are highlighting during World Green Building Week which is focusing on #BuildingResilience for climate change, people and economies.

David Ducarme, our Group Chief Operating Officer, who is contributing to the week’s panel discussions, says: “As buildings are responsible for 36% of carbon emissions in Europe, we have consistently campaigned for energy efficient building renovation to be put at the heart of the European Union’s 2050 ambition to be the first zero carbon continent in the world.

Picture on the right: David Ducarme, our Chief Operating Officer, participated as a speaker in the session 'Building Private and Public Momentum Behind the EU's Renovation Wave' of the BUILD UPON2 Virtual Summit.

David Ducarme, our Chief Operating Officer, in his office participates as a speaker in the session 'Building Private and Public Momentum Behind the EU's Renovation Wave' of the BUILD UPON2 Virtual Summit

Renovation requires a focus on quality

“And the renovation market is expected to develop quickly. At Knauf Insulation we have welcomed plans by the European Commission to renovate 35 million buildings by 2030, renovate 3% of all public buildings every year and the channelling of revenues from the Emissions Trading System into climate action projects such as renovation initiatives.

“However, it is essential that high quality renovation work and materials must deliver the real performance that customers are prepared to pay for with confidence. This means it is quantifiable in terms of before-and-after results.

How can we achieve this? We need to focus on quality to create a service that people can trust and ensure a clear regulatory framework in place that reinforces that trust.

David Ducarme Group Chief Operating Officer, Knauf Insulation

In 2019 we created a new company, Knauf Energy Solutions, to gain deeper understanding of building renovation and provide a one-stop shop that provides the workmanship, installation standards and high-quality materials our renovation customers deserve.

Deep renovation standards

Our insight can be reduced to two key lessons. First, attention to detail during a retrofit is crucial. Secondly, it is vital to objectively measure the outcome of that renovation work in terms of achieved energy and emissions savings. In other words, ensure quantifiable real performance results deliver quality work.

Building on this principle, the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in Europe later this year offers an opportunity to introduce a deep renovation standard and minimum energy performance standards for buildings.

But again, to ensure the success of any standards, it is critical to have trust in renovation results and that is why Knauf Insulation is also calling for a harmonised EU-certification scheme for energy efficiency meters.

At Knauf Insulation we have committed to achieve zero carbon by minimising the environmental impact of our products and manufacturing processes.

‘We have no choice but to be ambitious’

To transform these words into action, we have a target to reduce the embodied carbon of our products by 15% by 2025 against a 2019 baseline, which builds on our success in reducing emissions by 23% in the decade to 2020.

Vincent Briard, our Group Sustainability Director, says: “To achieve our embodied carbon target, we have no choice but to be ambitious.”

From the installation of photovoltaic panels and wind turbines to generate green energy on site to energy contracts with providers of ‘cleaner’ energy from wind, solar and hydro sources we are examining all possibilities to decarbonise our processes while exploring the potential of alternative energy sources of the future such as hydrogen and biogas.

“We are also using more recycled material for our Glass Mineral Wool which generates lower emissions than virgin raw materials and we are piloting new processes to recycle scrap insulation from construction and demolition sites to feed back into our manufacturing processes.”

‘We are in the business of sustainability’

Knauf Insulation is also investing 10% of general capital expenditure in sustainability projects that would not pass the company’s profitability bar if they were not supported by a business case that ensured the reduction of emissions or reduced waste to landfill.

We also never forget we are in the business of sustainability, and we have a responsibility to create the best possible energy-saving solutions.

Vincent Briard Group Sustainability Director, Knauf Insulation

“Over the past decade Knauf Insulation has produced almost 14 million tonnes of Rock and Glass Mineral Wool — in its application it allowed saving the equivalent of more than the annual carbon emissions of Belgium.

“We are proud of what we have achieved, but as the IPCC report points out, timing is critical. We may have achieved a great deal, but we still have a long way to go. We all need to act now For A Better World.”