Distributive policy

A new federal policy could reduce emissions of

TORONTO, Oct. 27, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — One-seventh of global carbon emissions are associated with building materials like steel, cement and aluminum, leaving a construction-shaped void in global efforts to fight against climate change.

In response, governments around the world, including Canada and the United States, are adopting “Buy Clean” policies to preferentially purchase cleaner building products for public infrastructure projects and expand the market for materials to low carbon.

A new report from Clean Energy Canada and Global Efficiency Intelligence, money talks, models the potential impact of Buy Clean here in Canada. The report also offers recommendations, endorsed by an alliance of industry, labor and environmental groups, on how Buy Clean could further reduce emissions while supporting Canadian industry.

Canada already produces some of the cleanest cement, aluminum and steel in the world, thanks in part to its relatively low-carbon electricity grid. But without a strong domestic market for these products, Canada could lose its competitive edge as the new US Inflation Reduction Act funnels billions of dollars into market growth for manufactured low-carbon building materials. in the United States, thereby threatening Canada’s own industrial advance.

This is one of the reasons why the Buy Clean Alliance (composed of steel, cement, aluminum and forestry industry associations alongside groups representing labor and the environment ) is advocating for Canada to step up its Buy Clean ambition to ensure it stays in the game.

Our report finds that Canada’s public sector accounts for roughly one-fifth of all infrastructure spending in the country, while emissions from publicly funded infrastructure construction are equal to the pollution of 1.7 million cars gasoline (8 million tonnes of CO2 eq.).

The federal government is developing a clean procurement strategy for federal construction projects, such as ports or government buildings, but this only covers 4% of all government spending and less than 1% of all infrastructure spending in Canada.

The real burden of public infrastructure spending in Canada rests with provinces, municipalities and Crown corporations. Only by taking a truly national approach will Buy Clean significantly strengthen Canada’s clean industrial market against US competition.

The report recommends several steps the federal government should take to develop a truly effective Buy Clean strategy, endorsed by the Buy Clean Alliance:

  • Extend the reach: Impose own-purchase requirements across the federal government, including for Crown corporations and federal investments in provincial and municipal infrastructure.
  • Develop provincial and local capacity: Create a dedicated team in the federal government to provide support to all levels of government, from provinces to municipalities, and the private sector to get on board with Buy Clean.
  • Laying the groundwork for a national approach: Reform building standards to enable low-carbon materials while investing in data, tools and programs to test and scale even cleaner building solutions.


“Canadian industry is already ahead of the curve when it comes to clean building materials thanks to a relatively clean electricity grid and a host of world-class clean technology companies. By going Buy Clean, we can reduce carbon pollution from our buildings and infrastructure while supporting Canadian industries and the thousands of jobs that come with them.

Olivier SheldrickClean Economy Program Manager at Clean Energy Canada

“Clean purchasing policies that encourage the purchase of low-carbon building materials, which are produced competitively by domestic industries, will help retain good jobs for workers in communities across Canada. Clean buying will help maintain Canadian industrial jobs, significantly reduce the embodied carbon of our buildings, bridges and infrastructure, and build a future we can all be proud of.

Jamie KirkpatrickSenior Program Manager at Blue Green Canada

“The Canadian cement and concrete industry has been steadfast in its commitment to reducing our emissions by 15 MT cumulatively by 2030 and reaching true net zero by 2050. A key part of achieving this goal is increase the availability and use of low carbon concrete. By implementing clean purchasing policies, governments can continue to reap the benefits of concrete – a durable, resilient, versatile and cost-effective material – while achieving vital emissions reductions and supporting jobs in communities. coast to coast. coast.”

Adam AuerPresident and CEO, Cement Association of Canada


  • About 13% of global emissions are “embedded” in the materials used to construct buildings and other infrastructure.
  • The two biggest polluters are the production of cement and steel, together responsible for about 14% of global emissions. Another 2% of global emissions come from aluminum production.
  • The demand for these materials is only grows, with up to 45% more cement, 30% more steel and 80% more aluminum expected to be needed by 2050.
  • All public infrastructure spending in Canada totaled $62.5 billion in 2018, roughly one-fifth of all infrastructure spending in the country, including housing.
  • Of this total government spending, direct federal purchases account for only 4%, while federal spending transferred to provinces, territories and municipalities accounts for an additional 13%.
  • By taking a pan-Canadian approach, Canada could avoid up to half of its emissions from building materials by 2030.


Report | money talks

Technical report | Advancing the Clean Canada Purchasing Policy

Related report | Lessons from the United States on “clean buying” and recommendations for Canada


Keri McNamara
Senior Communications Specialist