The built environment industry is ‘not moving fast enough’ to meet the UK’s national net zero commitments, according to new insight from the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC).
The update, published on ‘Built Environment Day’ (6 December) at COP28, reveals that between 2018 and 2022, carbon emissions from the UK built environment fell by 13%, significantly less than the 19% required to meet the UK’s net zero pathway. In real terms, the shortfall represents 11 MtCO2e of carbon emissions, equivalent to the annual polluting output of 6.5 million cars.
The UKGBC warns that in order to achieve the emission reductions established by the Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, key built environment sectors, such as property and construction, will “need to decarbonise nearly twice as fast over the next two years.”
According to the report, Covid-19 had a notable impact on energy demand and operational emissions from buildings. But, despite a reduction in construction sector output during the pandemic, embodied carbon emissions, the emissions released during the entire lifecycle, fell by just 4% since 2018, less than a quarter of the pathway target
“Unprecedented global events have shaped the story of the built environment over the last 4 years,” comments Smith Mordak, Chief Executive at UKGBC. “But despite forced emissions reductions during the pandemic, this progress report makes one thing clear: our industry is not moving fast enough.”
“The built environment is the largest source of climate emissions in the UK economy after surface transport, and we must act now to decarbonise our sector if we are to meet our national net zero commitments.”
The council highlights a “critical and substantial gap” in national policies which, it believes, could make-or-break the built environment’s efforts to meet the required decarbonisation pace and scale.
The report calls on political leaders to reject the recent U-turn away from ambitious net zero action, such as those from PM Rishi Sunak, instead calling for urgent government action in three key policy areas:
- Additional government investment in home retrofit to make it affordable and accessible to all. This could include a stamp duty incentive to reward home decarbonisation.
- A more robust regulatory landscape to ensure new homes and buildings will be genuinely ready for a net zero future.
- Clear national legislation to give climate and nature priority in planning decisions, and a system of local carbon budgets to enable local decision-making aligned with national targets.
“We are calling on the government to take urgent action in three key policy areas: home retrofit, new homes and buildings, and planning decisions,” said Mordak
“We must also work together as an industry to accelerate our progress towards net zero. We have the technologies and solutions we need, but we need to scale them up and implement them at pace.”
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