Net zero greenhouse gas emissions is emerging as the next construction industry target. Net zero greenhouse gas emissions are when the sum of your activities are carbon emissions free. Achieving this is challenging. There are political, economic and technical barriers, but recent events have started to change this:
- Politically, the UK Parliament declared that we are experiencing a climate emergency. The Prime Minister has followed this up by proposing a change to the law. The proposed changes to the Climate Change Act 2008 demonstrates renewed focus on climate change. For buildings, this means an approximate 90% reduction from 1990 carbon emission levels. This is 15% more than our current 2050 commitment.
- The United Kingdom Green Building Council (UKGBC) also believes that net zero can be achieved. Their framework explains how to calculate carbon emissions. It acknowledges the current limitations by giving two calculation options: The first considers carbon emissions from operations and the second from the entire building process;
- The report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) states that the UK can achieve net zero by 2050. This will help alleviate the climate emergency.
- Economically, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated a Future Homes Standard will be introduced by 2025. This was followed by the CCC stating the cost of achieving net zero will not be large, explaining the cost could be only 1-2% of GDP by 2050;
- Technically, the CCC and the UKGBC have reported on how to get to net zero.
- The CCC explains the greatest reductions are required from heating, electricity, transport and waste. They also consider our diets and use of aviation. We have previously discussed how CCC expects reductions from heating. This article can be found here.
- The UKGBC explains that net zero carbon in operation requires reducing energy demands, increasing onsite renewable energy contribution and then offsetting the remaining balance. The industry can work towards this now. Net zero carbon from all construction requires a whole life carbon assessment and then meeting net zero carbon in operation. This will require further thought from industry.
As a task group members for the UKGBC, we helped to provides a UK construction industry focused definition of:
- What should be included in the assessment;
- When it should be included in the assessment so industry can adopt the requirements;
- How emissions should be summed.
If you have any questions on its application or how we can help you adapt or provide transition plans, please do get in touch.