throughout the pandemic there has been a lot of positive spin around the unexpected environmental benefits. Reduced air travel, a downshift in manufacturing activity and a massive reduction in driving have all contributed to emissions reductions, improved air quality, and reduced light pollution.
Yet we need to remember that these unpredicted benefits do not signal an end to the climate crisis, in fact despite the COVID-generated economic constraints, greenhouse gas concentrations continue to spiral.
In 2019, the UK Government and the devolved administrations became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming. This legally binding target requires the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
With approximately 43% of the UK's carbon emissions attributable to the built environment, the construction industry has a huge burden of responsibility when it comes to driving down emissions, so what is the sector doing to ensure they fulfil their share of the Net Zero commitment?
In direct response to the government’s commitment The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) recently launched its CO2nstruct Zero initiative, A new cross-industry programme that aims to drive carbon emissions out of all parts of the construction sector, from manufacturing and design to build and operation.
The CLC said CO2nstruct Zero would build upon the construction industry’s united response to tackle covid-19 last year.
The 9 priorities tackled by the programme are:
Andy Mitchell chairman of CLC said: “We’ve seen the transformative impact that collective ambition has had on our industry’s standing with Government during Covid, who are now clear that the construction industry must be a key partner in the drive to reach UK Net Zero by 2050.
“We must now bring the same spirit and energy to addressing the climate emergency. ”
“By providing a consolidated action plan, clear targets and a single ambitious vision for change we hope that we can bring together the excellent work being done across the industry in a coordinated way to drive real transformation.”
The CLC said it will now invite companies big and small from across the industry to work together with CO2nstruct Zero, to help with its delivery and ensure its success.
It added that CO2nstruct Zero’s purpose is not to develop new solutions or new pathways but to bring people together to consolidate collective actions and plans for the sector.
An action plan aligned to the nine priorities is being prepared, co-ordinating the work already happening across the industry (including within the CLC through the Green Construction Board and the Infrastructure Client Group) to develop the solutions and guiding companies on the actions and role that they can play.
The action plan will also consider changing skills needs and how these can be addressed to provide a workforce that can achieve net zero.
The built environment represents some of the most cost-effective opportunities to decarbonise. Energy use in homes alone generates 14% of our emissions. A national retrofit programme would be a financially savvy way of slashing emissions, whilst providing co-benefits including high-quality jobs and lower energy bills for communities in every corner of the UK.
But beyond any one type of building, whether its new or existing, we need to embed net-zero thinking across the entire built environment value chain. From client to contractor, product manufacturer to specifier: everyone needs to have net-zero squarely in their sights.
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