We can, and should, be proud of our net zero efforts to date and should welcome the enthusiasm shown so far, but we must not rest on our laurels, argues Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC)

COP26 is now on firmly on the horizon. The eyes of the world will be on Glasgow this November as the United Nations Climate Change Conference mobilises the world towards the common goal of keeping climate change within 1.5C.

The Prime Minister has been clear on the importance of the built environment sector in meeting his target for the UK to reduce its carbon emissions by 78% compared with 1990 levels by 2035. All areas of society will need to play their part if we are to meet these targets. None more so than the built environment, which contributes 43% of UK emissions.

In my previous article for PBC Today in May, I outlined how the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is using its position to encourage the entire industry to move towards a net zero future.

I stressed that while pockets have made good progress, the complexity of the task ahead of us should not be underestimated. We will need to bring everyone on this journey if we are to be successful – from the largest companies, such as Tideway, through to SMEs and individual builders. We all have a role to play and we will all have to change the way we work. Put simply, without the built environment sector playing its part, we will not meet this target – and support the creation of 250,000 green jobs.

I explored how, building on the good work of the CLC’s Covid-19 taskforce, we had put in place a framework to tackle another existential issue – climate change. Bringing our activity under a single banner, CO2nstructZero, this industry-change programme is championing collaborative change and celebrating the ways we can work more effectively together as we move towards the carbon-free world of tomorrow. The growth of CO2nstructZero has been inspirational, reaching out and drawing in other sectors and key organisations as partners, including EDF Energy and the Confederation of British Industry. I am grateful for all their support.

Building a greener Britain

To help us promote the message that our industry is vital to building a greener Britain, the CLC is working in partnership with ITN to produce a series of films highlighting our role in delivering this net zero future.

Through industry case studies and marquee projects – the building of high-quality, energy efficient homes, safer public buildings, reliable and interconnected transport networks, or accessible, high-performing buildings and infrastructure that work for all – the videos will highlight how we, as a sector, are vital to delivering a better and greener future for both society and the planet.

I know how creative our industry can be and I’m looking forward to seeing this reflected in these films, which will help to make the case to government, the public and other stakeholders that we are driving change, improving standards and championing innovation.

Celebrating business champions

Our CO2nstructZero campaign is continuing to do the same and is celebrating the companies that have stepped up efforts to drive carbon out of the industry.

A further 12 organisations have joined the initial 14 and have publicly committed to sharing their plans for net zero, while acting as industry promoters and carbon role models. Their work and commitment are truly outstanding and a reminder to us all that change has begun and we are not working from a blank sheet of paper.

I’m delighted to see the diversity of our industry reflected in the make-up of our champions – we have SMEs and large companies, consultants and contractors, top manufacturers, as well as specialist distributors and surveyors. We are continuing to build up the network and providing them with more opportunities to share their knowledge, expertise and experience with as broad an audience as possible.

This activity will help good ideas to cross-pollinate and spread, and our business champions will be key to channelling huge business enthusiasm on net zero into tangible and effective action across the sector.

Creating a performance framework for all

This enthusiasm was also seen recently in the reaction to our CO2nstructZero Performance Framework consultation. More than 2,500 respondents shared their thoughts on how our industry can meet the Prime Minister’s challenge and deliver a net zero society.

The findings, which were shared to the sector on 20 July, will feed into the creation of a cross-industry performance framework – a suite of metrics, targets, milestones and commitments – that the industry can use to measure impact, while understanding when and where further action needs to be taken.

Building on the good work of our business champions, it will enable us to identify effective interventions and ensure we’re properly assessing our sector’s progress and contribution to the global challenge on carbon.

We can, and should, be proud of our efforts to date and should welcome the enthusiasm shown so far. We must not rest on our laurels, however. We are still at the beginning of our collective journey and we still have a long, long road ahead.

While the added impetus of COP26 is welcome and will provide all of us with an additional opportunity to showcase progress, we need to be weary of seeing it as a destination point. Our collective efforts will need to move beyond Glasgow and become even more systematic and sustained if we are to make progress on the biggest challenge we face.

Andy Mitchell is writing in his capacity as co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC). He is also chief executive officer of Tideway.


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