Carbon scorecards and working groups: Engineers gear up to support UK's net-zero ambition

The National Engineering Policy Centre (NEPC) has outlined the steps that the engineering sector can take to assist with the UK-wide decarbonisation to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, while WSP has led an economy-wide call for strengthened net-zero policies.

Over the next 18 months, the working group will focus its efforts on identifying and exploring priorities for action to lay the foundations for net-zero in the UK

Over the next 18 months, the working group will focus its efforts on identifying and exploring priorities for action to lay the foundations for net-zero in the UK

The Net Zero: A systems perspective on the climate challenge paper, sets out the aims and areas of influence of a new programme of work led by the NEPC’s Decarbonisation Working Group. The aim of the work is to create a “thriving, low-carbon economy by 2050, resulting from rapid and coordinated action at scale, across sectors, led by government and with a strong public mandate”.

The NEPC is being led by the Royal Academy of Engineering, between 39 different UK engineering organisations representing 450,000 engineers. Additionally, institutions such as the Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers (IGEM) are supporting the new programme to create a “systems thinking approach” to the need to decarbonise certain sectors through certain technologies.

Over the next 18 months, the working group will focus its efforts on identifying and exploring priorities for action to lay the foundations for net-zero in the UK. The work will span all areas of the economy and will focus on scientific approaches to energy generation, storage and transmission, transport modes, infrastructure and the built environment, land use manufacturing and greenhouse gas removal.

Policy overhaul 

The working group was launched just after engineering professional services firm WSP unveiled a new set of essays outlining approaches and opportunities of the net-zero transition.

It features contributions from the chief executives of Iceland, Heathrow and Ikea, the chairs of numerous green groups and thinktanks and numerous academics. Those involved in the project, coordinated by Bright Blue, claim that net-zero is both an environmental necessity and an economic opportunity.

Namely, the essays claim that net-zero won’t require vast amounts of public spending, due to the momentum delivered to date on decarbonisation in the UK.

Additionally, the report authors claim that the coronavirus pandemic has strengthened the case for climate action, and that businesses, governments and communities will need to focus on mitigation and resilience in the future.

WSP UK’s chief executive Mark Naysmith said: “Ensuring that big societal ambitions get delivered is what drives our planners, engineers, environmental consultants and technical experts. To us, there is no agenda greater than mitigating climate change and environmental degradation.

“The net-zero agenda is an opportunity to build back better, level up the country, boost our national resilience and attract new talent into the built and natural environment, as well as being a societal duty. WSP is committed to being carbon neutral by 2025 and advises both national and local government as well as private organisations on sustainable practices, and I felt this collaborative essay collection would be a timely contribution to the national conversation on delivery.”

Specifically, the cohort of leaders is calling for the introduction of a “carbon pound” to reflect the environmental impact of goods and services and an international and privately backed Green Investment Bank should be established.

Calls have also been issued for air passenger duties to be revamped to promote more sustainable aviation travel and for the Future Homes Standard to be brought forward. In fact, all new policies should be examined under a “climate scorecard”.

The Government should start accounting for consumption-based emissions and businesses should be implored to focus on the carbon intensity of their supply chains. Provisions which remove tariff and non-tariff barriers in low-carbon sectors should also be included in free trade agreements (FTAs), the writing notes.


edie's Net-Zero Week 2020

edie's Net-Zero Week 2020 (18-22 May) is a themed week of online content and events dedicated to supporting sustainability, energy and resource efficiency professionals on their journey to net-zero, and beyond. 

As well as exclusive interviews, features, reports and blogs, the Week includes three online events on the themes of business leadership (19 May), energy management (20 May) and resource efficiency (21 May).

View all of our Net-Zero Week content here.

Matt Mace



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