At the end of a week in which scientists have sounded the alarm over the pace of global warming, representatives of major construction firms are warning that the industry needs to take rapid action to decarbonise.
As reported by Construction Update, this week saw the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publish its latest report on global warming, which the head of the UN described as a “code red for humanity”.
“Unequivocal” that human activity has warmed the planet
The report said it was now “unequivocal” that human activity has warmed the planet and warned the average global temperature would be 1.5°C higher by 2040 compared to pre-industrial levels. This level could be hit sooner if emissions are not slashed. The report said the higher temperature would lead to more frequent and intense heatwaves and extreme weather, including flooding.
The industry must collaborate to cut emissions
Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds said the report laid out a “stark reality” and said the industry must collaborate to cut its own emissions.
“In construction, I hope we all now recognise that we have to transform how we deliver – the question is whether or not we’re able to effectively work together to drive change at the pace we need. If we don’t, our industry will find itself in a difficult place. It isn’t enough just to pay lip service to reducing carbon emissions – we must seek and deliver radical solutions.”
He called on UK contractors to adopt the Construction Leadership Council’s COnstructZero proposals, which aim to cut emissions by 66 per cent by 2035.
Calls for cross-industry collaboration
“It is going to take hard work and true cross-industry collaboration on a whole new scale.” He added: “Either we move faster than ever to deliver real change or we and our planet face huge consequences.”
Suzanne Wallace, IES, was quoted by Modern Building Services, saying:
“This report is an ‘as clear as it gets’ wake up call to governments, businesses, and citizens to start doing their bit.”
Joel Callow, Director and Passivhaus consultant at QODA Consulting, was also quoted by Modern Building Services, stating:
“While there are many levels of action against climate change… by far the most powerful change is big reductions in CO2 emissions. Thankfully, in the UK construction industry, we already have a skilled and motivated workforce (though further training is urgently needed) and an excellent range of tools and targets to achieve and exceed net zero. It is now a matter of applying them universally and quickly to all projects. Getting the embodied and operational CO2 emissions of all our projects down below zero is the urgent and present challenge of our professional lives.”
Advantage’s view: The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 stood at less than half the level recorded in 1990 – meaning the UK is now halfway to meeting its target of “net-zero” emissions by 2050. There is clearly an appetite from many within the construction industry to play a key role in helping to cut CO2 emissions. And the government is encouraging private companies, including those in the construction sector, to continue to make changes to their ways of working in order to cut emissions. So the willingness to change is certainly there. However, this week’s headlines emphasise the fact that the pace of that change will need to be swift – not just within the construction sector or within the UK, but globally.
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