Guest writer Graeme Cooke, Commercial Director at DEF Software discusses what Carbon-Neutral targets means for planners and the construction industry, and how it doesn’t always pay to wait for government guidance.
When COP26 took place towards the end of last year, we saw promises from both the private sector and government organisations to work towards carbon net-zero, made in a bid to show dedication towards protecting the planet and reverse the effects of climate change.
One such campaign highlighted at the event was the UN Race to Zero, a collection of Britain’s largest businesses, including half the FTSE100 and representing sectors like transport, construction, technology, manufacturing, and finance, committing to drastically reducing their carbon emissions.
At the event and beyond, the UK Government is now putting pressure on businesses, of all sizes, to pledge to go ‘One Step Greener’ and sign up to the commitment, which requires organisations to become more energy efficient, switch to electric vehicles and active travel, and become landfill free, by 2050 at the latest.
Government is already seeking Carbon Reduction Plans (CRP) from suppliers to the public sector with the incentive of a free review against Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 06/21. Any supplier wishing to bid for government contracts over £5 million must create and submit their CRP.
Although generally this is a positive movement, there are still considerations that need to come into play. Initially, it seems like this is an issue for the private sector, but it will likely have a ripple effect that will be felt across local government and add pressures to specific departments such as planning and building control.
2050 may seem a while away, but with higher budgets, things are able to move faster in the private sector world, and as a result, will the underfunded public sector be left struggling to pick up the pieces in time?
What will the impact be for local authorities?
Race to Zero is just the beginning, we’re likely to see all sorts of legislation and new carbon-neutral targets introduced for businesses, in order to cut the industry impact of environmental damage.
Whilst reducing carbon emissions is becoming unavoidable if we’re to protect the environment, there are likely to be potential challenges that will arise from this, that local authorities may need to have some foresight on and prepare accordingly for.
The first hurdle that has already been introduced in 2021, was a new policy ensuring the phasing out of gas boilers in new builds fully by 2025, and as a result, plans for new houses must either come readily installed with heat pumps or hydrogen boilers, or have the correct framework to easily put one in place. On top of this, buildings must now also have mandatory EPC ratings of at least C or above. As a large development can take over 10 years to build out, there will be no planning conditions on such applications. There are considerations on how this should be governed moving forward. By planning condition or national legislation?
This short deadline has caused a furore amongst homeowners and housing providers, and many local authorities have expressed concern that they simply aren’t equipped to cope with the extra admin and pressure this will cause planning departments. A thought mirrored by housing experts, are already saying this may simply be unachievable due to the extra work it’s likely to place on local authorities.
For planning departments, provisions will need to be made to accommodate businesses committing to carbon-neutral and the impact it will have on travel plans in cities. For example, a rise in the use of electric cars will mean more charging stations, and a rise in the use of public transport, means new routes may need to be developed, and greener vehicles brought in.
The commitment to landfill free is also a consideration, how will local authority waste be managed and will recycling centres need to expand or change their offerings?
However, the issue that overarches all of this, is that for planners reviewing a new project, how are they expected to measure exactly what the carbon impact of it is, and ensure it truly is net-zero?
The impact will likely be felt from other angles as well. The construction industry is also facing an overhaul with the agreed targets. Likely, new materials and processes may need to be used, and it could affect the entire supply chain – causing pressure for developers and their plans.
This may also have a knock-on effect for local government suppliers as well. The procurement process is already convoluted, and recent requirements, such as the ability to prove products can evidence social value has already complicated matters, with companies having to go out of their way to prove they fit the criteria.
Eventually suppliers may have to prove that they too are aiming to be net carbon-neutral businesses when they go to tender, which could slow down and limit the market, this could slow down innovation in the tech market.
This could end up being a massive burden on a small business especially, and it’s hard to prepare for when there’s a lack of guidance from the government on exactly how these targets can be reached or if there’s any funding to support it.
What can be done now?
It’s clear that as first steps, businesses, and local authorities need clear-cut advice from the government and other industry bodies on exactly how carbon-neutral targets can be achieved, and how the impact this will inevitably have on existing processes will be managed.
But, as history has proven, it doesn’t always pay to wait for government guidance, and sometimes it’s best to take action to mitigate any changes.
As a result, it would be wise for councils to start thinking today about preparing for this, creating a plan of areas that may be impacted, considering budget, and thinking about any technology or software that might help to alleviate any admin pressures.
About the Author
Graeme Cooke is Commercial Director at DEF Software and has been involved in shaping DEF Software since its inception in 2009. He is responsible for the sales and marketing aspects of the business, playing a role in doubling the customer base and helping to grow the team to where it is today.
He is committed to an evolving programme of continuously improving DEF’s software and services, particularly in partnership with its customers so that DEF can always deliver them bespoke products and services. He believes DEF is so much more than a company or a team of people. DEF is an ethos, an ideal to strive for more, to be the best we can be.
Graeme has always worked in an IT role and consistently champions technology to solve business problems. It is this basic premise that drives him to deliver what is to come at DEF.
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