5 key takeaways from Intermat 2024’s conference on energy transition

From left to right: Dominico Campogrande, director general of FIEC, Flora Ghebali, founder of Coalitions, moderator Emmanuel Lechypre, Michel Petitjean, secretary general of the ERA, Ricardo Viaggi, secretary general of CECE. From left to right: Dominico Campogrande, director general of FIEC, Flora Ghebali, founder of Coalitions, moderator Emmanuel Lechypre, Michel Petitjean, secretary general of the ERA, Ricardo Viaggi, secretary general of CECE.

With Europe’s construction industry in the midst of the energy transition, the return of Intermat for the first time in six years was a welcome reminder as to the work that companies are carrying out.

You only had to take a look at the stands of the more than 1,000 exhibitors, most of which featured low-carbon equipment, to see the work that is going into reducing emissions in the construction sector.

At the same time, discussions and round tables were held during Intermat, with some of the leading voices in construction and rental giving insight into the scale of the challenge and some of the nuances behind targets.

IRN attended the Energy, Climate: Europe in Tune conference on day one of Intermat. Here are five key points from the conference.

The role of collaboration in the energy transition

While many companies, both in general construction and rental, race to meet their own targets for emission reduction, some have argued that more needs to be done before the 2050 target for net zero is met.

Speaking at the conference, Dominico Campogrande, director general of FIEC, the trade association representing building and civil engineering companies in Europe, said more collaboration is needed across the board if targets are to be met.

He said, “We can reach the decarbonisation objective in 2050 if we all play together. The construction process is complex. It involves different players, the customer, the architect, the contractors, the equipment manufacturers, construction workers, etc.

“We as construction companies represent only 12% of the total Co2 chain. So, if we were to totally decarbonise our sector, we would only represent a small part of the whole. It’s important that everyone in the value chain do what he or she is supposed to do.”

Looking at the manufacturer perspective, he said, “As far as machine production is concerned, the way we choose equipment, the way we organise our work sites, what’s important is that we have a greater integration throughout the whole value chain for construction.”

Realistic emission objectives

Meanwhile, the argument was made at the show that targets were ambitious at best, and even unrealistic.

However, according to Ricardo Viaggi, secretary general of the Committee for European Construction Equipment (CECE), Europe has realistic objectives, but is lacking the means to carry them out.

He said, “We believe in the Green Deal and the 2050 objective. The mechanism is in place. We know that we also have to have an industrial pact, and this is what a lot of the industrial organisations in Brussels are asking for.

“It’s why a lot of the European Member States are asking for this. This is why we have not yet succeeded because today the Green Deal is faced with industrial challenges.

“Our competitors, the US and the Chinese, are financing the transition without setting an objective.”

Viaggi concludes, “There are hundreds of billions of euros in subsidies granted by the US and the Chinese to get European companies to relocate in China and the US, which unfortunately is happening in our industry.

“Europe has set objectives for itself, but it has not given the means to achieve these objectives.”

The approach across Europe remains the same

From the perspective of the rental industry, Michel Petitjean, secretary general of the European Rental Association, made the case that as companies become bigger and spread further afield, they become more aware of environmental issues and as such, their strategies extend beyond domestic markets.

He said, “If we look back 5 or 10 years ago, Northern Europe was more focused around the environmental and climate issues.

“Today, because companies are consolidating, groups are larger and larger in size and work over very large perimeters, they’re extending their objectives and strategies.

“Today there is no real difference in the approach to this energy transition from country to country.”

Similar to the point raised by Campogrande, Petitjean argues that a “team effort” is required to tackle the European energy transition efforts.

However, he points to geographical alliances as opposed to sector-specific partnerships, adding that more work needs to be done on a global scale to supplement the European efforts.

He said, “This is a team effort, and given that the construction sector represents only 12% of the emissions in Europe, then in the face of this neutrality objective for 2050 Europe in fact represents about 8% of world emissions. So, we need to work more efficiently on a world scale basis.”

The focus must stay on Europe

Meanwhile, Flora Ghebali, founder of Coalitions, a company that helps organisations with their strategies, argued that the focus must stay on the European market as a whole; “European countries are small. When you look at China, placing some €150 billion on the table and others with €350 billion, then we have to be active in this transition.

She said she disagrees with the notion that countries should be analysed at local level as opposed to a European level; “If we want to play on an equal footing with the big players, we have to see what each country can do. What can France do? What can India do? China? I don’t look at it like this. I think we have to work on a European scale because Europe is the number one world market.

“If we look at China, which has very has high carbon emissions, when we are the number one market in the world, we have the power and responsibility to impose these decarbonised rules on others.

“The revolution we have to carry out is simple. It’s a question of having a social minimum, which would guarantee human dignity and I think that the Europe is indeed working on this with regards to forced work and an ecological feeling which allows us to limit emissions. It’s not ideological choice if we don’t do it today, then all of the countries that you represent here are going to collapse.”

Europe’s geopolitical concern

Finishing off the discussion, Campogrande argued that although construction is a global market, certain geopolitical factors have an impact on a more localised level; “If the equipment market is a global one, the construction market as such is very local. So, we look at the international dimension, which is important because it has implication.

“We look at the geopolitical situation, which has had an impact on interest rates, inflation and cost. Look at the crisis in terms of new housing developments, so even at the local level, we are impacted by the global environment.

“When we talk about decarbonisation, we talk about the construction sector. When we talk about energy efficiency in Northern Finland or southern Italy, we’re not talking to the same concept, the same ideas. And you need to take that into account.”

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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]