Construction and demolition must act upon its climate pledge

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Jonathan Cox, Marketing Director, Rye Demolition, discusses COP26 and the need for the construction and demolition industries to do more to safeguard the environment

COP26 in Glasgow has been heralded as a pivotal moment in world history. The conference brings together the world’s political leaders in pursuit of turning words into action. The pressure is immense, with pressure groups such as Green Peace, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion, as well as personalities like David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg leading the cries for change.

“Enough talking, time to act. No more blah blah blah!” comes the cry from the streets surrounding the Scottish Event Campus in Glasgow.

The Paris Agreement, which was drawn up in 2015 and signed by 191 nations, plus the European Union, set out a global framework to reduce dangerous emissions and attempt to limit temperature rises to 1.5°c. At the time it was heralded as a key moment in world history – an agreement that would prevent devastating consequences for the world’s population, wildlife and natural habitats.

Six years on and the consensus is that, whilst the outward intent and pledge was positive, nothing has happened. What is a pledge without action?

‘Can’t solve the climate crisis ourselves’

What is clear is that no single country, company or person can make the required change on their own. When it comes to climate change, the whole world is connected and interdependent. Deforestation in the Amazon dramatically impacts us all, desertification in East Africa leads to hurricanes in the Caribbean and exporting old plastics from Europe leads to sea pollution in the Pacific.

At Rye Group, we recognise that, whilst we can’t solve the climate crisis ourselves, we have a significant part to play. If we aren’t prepared to play our part, how can we join the calls for others to do so.

Recognising the challenge that faces the whole of humanity and the part we all have to play, we are proud to have set our goal of being Net Zero by 2030, twenty years ahead of the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

We are committing to regular reporting, reducing scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and utilising credible offsetting when emissions can’t be eliminated. This is a challenging goal, but one we believe is feasible and necessary.

‘Pledges are not enough – take the pledge and live it’

With Greta Thunberg’s words ringing in our ears, words and pledges are not enough. We need to take the pledge and live it. We need to take action now and change how we operate. If we don’t, then our contribution to limiting temperature rises will be less than it could be. So now we’re starting.

Over the next few months, you can expect to see a number of things from Rye Group, across our demolition, enabling, environmental and plant hire businesses. Starting with measurement and auditing, leading on to tangible and significant ways of reducing emissions.

Already we have rolled out the use of GreenD+ HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) fuel across our fleet of plant and machinery, replacing diesel. We are also in the process of rolling out the use of HVO to all our road vehicles used to reach and manage our sites across the UK.

We believe that this change alone will reduce our carbon emissions by around 1.4m Kg per year, on top of NOx pollutants.

Living by our Sustainable Standard philosophy, we are developing a manifesto of other commitments and seeking to learn from experts and others in business about what else we can do.

We intend to learn swiftly and deploy our first NetZero demolition project in the next 6 months with a plan to make all projects net zero in the coming 2-3 years.

The challenge is not small and it is not without cost, but we believe it will create significant benefit for the environment, the world population and for business. Fewer pollutants on site will benefit site workers and the local community, greener transport for site workers will impact across the country and beyond and the momentum we create will have a knock-on impact across the industry and society as a whole.

With this in mind, in the words of Elvis, it’s time for a little less conversation, a little more action… Let’s move from thinking to doing, from pledges to action and be the leaders the world needs.

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