With COP26 headlines currently dominating all media outlets and news channels, it is difficult to ignore phrases like ‘green recovery’, ‘build back better’ and ‘net zero carbon’, as well as the continuous updates on the progress being made on climate negotiations.

The built environment plays a critical role in advancing the climate agenda and so it is up to us, as professionals in the industry, to challenge ourselves and answer the call of necessity. Back in November 2020, the Government set out its ‘Ten Point Plan for Green Industrial Revolution’[1] – a plan that lays the foundations for the UK to become “cleaner, greener and more beautiful” as well as a global leader in green technologies and finance.

The plan mobilises £12 billion of government investment (and potentially three times more from the private sector by 2030) and brings together ambitious policies that focus on driving down emissions both now and in the future whilst bolstering the economy.

The 10 points are:

  1. Advancing offshore wind
  2. Driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
  3. Delivering new and advanced nuclear power
  4. Accelerating the shift to zero emission vehicles
  5. Green public transport, cycling and walking
  6. Jet zero and green ships
  7. Greener buildings
  8. Investing in carbon capture, usage and storage
  9. Protecting our natural environment
  10. Green finance and innovation
Photovoltaic panels with wind turbines

Included under each of these 10 points (or ‘ESG enablers’) are policy impacts, target milestones and potential deliverables, but these 10 points represent just one more step on the path to achieving net zero by 2050. The recently published Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener[2] sets out further plans for reducing emissions across all the UK’s major economic sectors and builds on the Ten Point Plan by filling in some of the blanks. The Net Zero Strategy adds meat to the Ten Point Plan by including pathways, policies, proposals and action points to keep us on track for UK carbon budgets, the UK’s 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution and also the overarching net zero 2050 goals.

The Net Zero Strategy also sits alongside the UK’s first ‘Net Zero Research and Innovation Framework’[3]. This document supports the delivery of the Net Zero Strategy by setting out the key net zero research and innovation priority areas for the UK over the next 5-10 years. Together, they set out a long-term plan for the green economy that the Government will report against.

With these, a clear statement of intent has been set that gives us a springboard to the numerous opportunities that can be realised with a low-carbon economy. But now these ambitions must be turned into reality.

You can read more about these ESG enablers in our new article.

UK Roadmap for achieving Net Zero carbon built environment by 2050

The key document for construction, and the one that builds on the Net Zero Strategy, is the recently published ‘Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment’ (the ‘Roadmap’).

The UK Green Building Council (UKBGC) launched the Roadmap for achieving Net Zero carbon built environment by 2050 at COP26[4]. It is the first quantification of the carbon reduction required each year from buildings and infrastructure if the UK is to become net zero. The co-created Roadmap represents a shared vision and a set of actions for achieving a net zero built environment. For the first time, specific carbon emission reduction targets across sub-sectors have been set that will allow the UK to benchmark its progress in the years ahead and identify sub-sectors that are not moving fast enough.

The Roadmap sets out policy recommendations to drive the transition for decarbonising the sector. Many of the policy recommendations align with existing industry initiatives (eg the CLC’s ‘Construct Zero’ and the CIC’s ‘Climate Action Plan’) but in some cases, the recommendations go a step further and build on existing Government Policy initiatives to facilitate adoption of further proposals and timelines. For example, the analysis in the report includes not only domestic emissions but emissions related to the consumption of imported construction products and materials.

Included in the Roadmap are sub-sector carbon trajectories to 2050 and industry action plans for 14 key stakeholders that will enable them to play their part in delivering the 2050 scenario. The ‘Technical Report’ in the series usefully provides details on project structure, how data should be collected and calculation methodologies for measuring embodied and in-use carbon. All of this will be crucial in encouraging the supply chain to accelerate their net zero ambitions and decarbonise the UK built environment.

The UKGBC told world leaders at COP26 that a net zero built environment is possible – but only with urgent action by government and the industry. The useful priorities and actions detailed in the Roadmap will inevitably impact on how we go about delivering the Ten Point Plan, as well as the strategies that are used for new developments falling under each of the key focus areas of the Plan.

In the following months G&T will publish further articles that explore some of the key aspects outlined in the Ten Point Plan and Net Zero Strategy documents. In these we will provide unique insights gleaned from our involvement with construction projects in many of these areas and also highlight any key developments and updates to strategy and policy.