The unstoppable momentum of net-zero

With approximately 40% of the UK's carbon emissions attributable to the built environment, our industry represents a huge slice of the pie when it comes to driving down emissions. And with the legally binding target of the UK being net-zero by 2050 in place, now is the time for construction and property businesses to step up and take action.

The unstoppable momentum of net-zero

It’s no secret that the built environment represents some of our 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.

To this end, UKGBC has been engaging extensively with members and the wider industry through our Advancing Net Zero programme. This work has so-far convened well over 100 multi-disciplinary experts to build consensus around a framework definition for net zero carbon – which launched earlier this year.

Now we’re in the process of developing guidance for specific areas – in July we launched our Scope 3 guidance – helping businesses address their value chain emissions – and we’ll shortly be launching energy performance targets for the offices sector. There is still a great deal of work to do as we bring the industry forward with us on a path to net-zero so we’re keen to engage with anyone who wants to get involved.

It’s impossible to ignore the unstoppable momentum for change that has built up over the last 12 months. We’ve moved quickly from a situation wherein some circles the science of climate change was still being debated to one where the principal question is no longer whether climate change is happening, but rather how quickly, and what can be done to reverse its worst consequences. Pursuing a net-zero emissions target has received support from businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors, as illustrated by the CBI’s own support for such an end goal, and there is now a real reputational risk for those organisations that cannot demonstrate a commitment to eliminating their carbon footprint over time.

Back in September, I was honoured to speak in front of hundreds of built environment professionals at the Global Climate Strike. This moment of activism was one of the more powerful I have experienced – these were not ‘old crusties’, stood before me in their hundreds outside UKGBC’s headquarters – these were engineers, architects, developers: besuited property professionals. On that day, business leaders stepped out of the boardroom and onto the streets to fight for climate action. Let’s build on that momentum, accelerate concrete action, and demonstrate that our industry can pick up the gauntlet and rise to the climate challenge.

Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive, UK Green Building Council

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