NEW REPORT: Regulatory needs for harmonising carbon limit values

How can we obtain more Harmonised Carbon Limit Values for Buildings in Nordic Countries?

Publiceret 08-03-2024

The Nordic countries and Estonia currently have varying approaches to limit values. Harmonising methods will be crucial for fair competition which will mobilise the market to develop the most efficient low carbon solutions. This report maps the current Nordic pathways to limit values, national LCA differences and provides a set of recommendations for harmonising LCA methods for buildings.

NEW REPORT: Regulatory needs for harmonising carbon limit values

This report recommends a cost-effective implementation strategy that sends a clear signal about future decarbonisation milestones. The implementation strategy should also include limit values for the climate impact of buildings that combine a high ambition level with a smooth adoption by the industry. This involves including milestones related to expanding the scope for the limit values in terms of life cycle modules and building elements covered.

The report also suggests that differentiation of carbon limits per building type will be necessary as limit values begin to pressure construction practices. Additionally, the report highlights the need for carbon regulation of renovations, which is not yet part of EU policy.

The report is a part of our work on Nordic Harmonisation of Life Cycle Assessments, lead by the Ministry of Environment Finland. The report is written by SWECO Denmark, BUILD, EFLA and LCA-support.

Mapping Existing Pathways to Limit Values

The Nordic countries have taken different approaches to developing limit values for the climate impact of buildings.

  • Denmark's initial limit value of 12 kgCO2e/(m2year) in 2023 was based on a reference report analysing 60 case studies. The limit values is set to be revised based on early applications.
  • Sweden's proposed limit values, to be introduced in 2025, focus on life cycle stages A1-A5 in order to concentrate efforts on reducing emissions that can be verified today.
  • In Finland a preliminary report suggests differentiated reference values for various building types.
  • Norway's proposed voluntary limit values in 2022 were not implemented, and no plans for extending the current scope or introducing limit values are in place.
  • Both Estonia and Iceland are pursuing the development of their climate declaration methods and are expected to introduce limit values in 2027-2028.

In this way, to get the existing pathways more on the same track, the need of harmonising these approaches of carbon limit values is clear. Among other aspects, the very definition of LCA plays a significant role in this context. 

National LCA Definitions

This report discusses the current differences and synergies in LCA definitions including reference unit and methods used to calculate energy use, exported energy and biogenic carbon. The report also touches on the scope of life cycle modules and building model at implementation, with plans to extend the system boundary in the future.

In addition, the report includes a strategy towards harmonising approaches, to facilitate the Nordic construction sector to compare limit values and LCA calculation results across countries despite differences. Finally, the report suggests a strategy for harmonising approaches, which will lead to more comparable limit values and carbon declarations across the Nordic countries.

Preconditions for Setting & Controlling Limit Values

The report outlines the need for developing compliance control routines balancing effective and feasible procedures. The report discusses the different approaches to control regimes in the Nordic countries, such as Denmark and Norway's reliance on the owner for legal compliance and Sweden's requirement for registering a climate declaration at a central database.

The report also highlights the importance of building professionals having the ability to perform assessments rapidly and at low cost, and the role of harmonised packages of calculation tools, generic data and training in enabling the adoption of building LCA.

Dive into the report here


Through the revised Energy Performance of Building Directive, building carbon declarations will become mandatory for larger buildings by 2028 and all buildings by 2030. During recent years, the Nordic region has become frontrunners of implementing life-cycle-based building assessments, where carbon declarations are planned to be introduced already by the beginning of 2025. Denmark has already issued limit values in 2023, with Sweden and Finland planning to follow in 2025.