What is Embodied Carbon and Why is it Important?
Embodied carbon is the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building and infrastructure materials. The emissions that come from embodied carbon account for between 11-23% of global annual emissions. In spite of the staggering impact embodied carbon has on the climate crisis, local health, and equity, it is still rarely included in our local and statewide efforts to reduce emissions from buildings. In order for us to transform our buildings from climate polluters to climate protectors, we must address embodied carbon as well as operational carbon.
Use MCAN’s Embodied Carbon Toolkit: This toolkit sets out to assist advocates in calling for their state legislators and local officials to advance policies that will address, measure, and reduce embodied carbon emissions – greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and disposal of building and infrastructure materials.
You will find resources, documents, email templates, and sample tweets to assist you in your advocacy.
Steps to Reduce Embodied Carbon Across the Commonwealth
In 2023, three bills were filed in Massachusetts to address embodied carbon. Find MCAN’s One Pager on all three embodied carbon legislation.
Sponsors: Representative Cahill, Senator Creem
What the Bill Does:
Sponsors: Representative Garballey, Senator Creem
What the Bills Does:
Sponsors: Rep. Ciccolo & Rep. Owens, Sen Comerford
What the Bill Does:
Locally, communities can reduce embodied carbon by incorporating provisions into their climate action plans and zoning policies. Specifically, communities should require a Whole-Building Life-Cycle Analysis (WBLCA) as part of their zoning policies and eventually implement emissions reduction requirements. Additional solutions that advance building material reuse and incorporate increased LEED requirements in zoning requirements can also be implemented.
Municipalities across the Commonwealth are beginning to adopt policies and practices that contribute to the measurement and reduction of embodied carbon.
Examples of this progress include:
Learn More About Local Action:
- Net Zero Carbon Zoning (Learn more here, pg 8-9 & Appendix I)
- Mass Timber Accelerator (Learn more here)
- Deconstruction Pilot (Learn more here)
- Net Zero Action Plan Action 2.2 (Learn more here)
- Sustainable Design Ordinance for Special Permits (Learn more here)
- Climate Action Plan: Beyond 2025 (Learn more here , pg 82)
- Resolution to mandate low carbon concrete in all municipal construction
- MCAN’s Embodied Carbon Toolkit
- Reducing Embodied Carbon Emissions in Massachusetts One-Pager.
- MCAN’s One Pager on All Three Embodied Carbon Legislation.
- An Act Incorporating Embodied Carbon into State Climate Policy, H.764/S.2090 One Page Summary.
- An Act requiring state procurement of low-carbon building materials, H.3035/S.1981 One Page Summary
- An Act Relative to the Use of Low-Embodied Carbon Concrete in State Projects, H.3002/S.1982 One Page Summary
- MCAN’s “How Massachusetts Can Become a Leader in Reducing Embodied Carbon Emissions in Our Buildings” Webinar 2023
- MCAN’s “Importance of Reducing Embodied Carbon” Webinar 2022
- Embodied Carbon Podcast
- Embodied Carbon Media Briefing 2023
- Carbon Leadership Forum (CLF) Embodied Carbon Policy Toolkit
- 10 Steps to Reducing Embodied Carbon
- Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator
- Lowering Embodied Carbon in Buildings (US Green Building Council)