Government 2050 net zero carbon commitment: construction reaction

13 June 2019 | By Neil Gerrard


Construction industry bodies have welcomed a commitment by the government to legislate for a UK net zero target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The announcement came after major contractors were among 120 business leaders to write to prime minister Theresa May calling on her to back such a move following a recommendation by the Committee on Climate Change.

May, who has agreed to amend the Climate Change Act to introduce the commitment, said there was a “moral duty to leave this world in a better condition than what we inherited”.

The UK was already committed to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050 but the new, tougher target, requires emissions to be cut completely or offset in cases where they are produced. Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned that the commitment could cost £1tn by 2050.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) welcomed the move. Chief executive Julie Hirigoyen said: “This is a powerful and positive move by the prime minister that will give her time in office a legacy beyond Brexit. Setting this important and necessary target now sends a strong signal to business that Britain is ready to lead the world in tackling the climate crisis.

“UKGBC knows that the built environment contains some of the biggest opportunities to slash emissions. We must accelerate action in all areas including improving the efficiency of our aging building stock and overcoming the challenge of decarbonising heat. To do this, we need to see both policy and industry leadership to ensure the built environment is at the vanguard of emissions reductions. There is no time to lose, now is the time to act.”

Paul Reeve, director of corporate and social responsibility at the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), which urged the government to commit to “meaningful and swift” action to meet the target, said: “This is the first step on what we hope will be the UK’s journey to net zero carbon. No-one should expect the feat of resolving the UK’s carbon footprint to be anything other than daunting, but the government has issued a truly remarkable response to the ‘zero carbon’ challenge set out by the CCC in May.

“The task ahead is immense: the UK is drastically short of the infrastructure, supply and installation capacity needed to introduce low-carbon building heating at scale. There are also major ‘low carbon’ skills gaps across building design, construction and installation. We also need to ensure that whatever happens in the years ahead delivers the quality and performance necessary for whole-life low carbon buildings.”

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