Will 2015 be a climate change election?
Elaine Knutt, CM editor
As the storms abate and the flood waters recede, they have hopefully left behind a reinvigorated debate on climate change and the imperative to slash carbon emissions. For the first time in four years, since David Cameron made his increasingly empty claims about the coalition being the “greenest government ever”, climate change has re-entered the political arena.
The industry, of course, has been quietly getting on with the job of reducing emissions: from energy in use; from embodied carbon in products and supply chains; from site operations, transport and waste. But from two articles addressing sustainability in March’s CM, different and worrying themes emerge.
In our round-table debate on site and transport emissions, representatives of the Top 20 contractors round the table agreed the rate at which their carbon footprints were shrinking was slowing. The low-hanging fruit has been picked – the insulated site cabins, the lower use of generators, better fleet and transport management. What remains is the hard task of driving out carbon through better design, better engagement and information flow from the supply chain and new innovations in plant and equipment.
The industry, via the Strategic Forum, set itself a series of voluntary targets for the 2008-12 period: halving waste to landfill; reducing construction-related carbon by 15%; reducing water usage in the manufacturing and construction phase by 20%. The data on whether or not these targets have been met is still being collated by the Green Construction Board and is due to be published around June. But the round table’s anecdotal view was that the momentum of 2008-10 hasn’t been carried forward – as the economic slowdown diverted companies’ attention and energy – and nor did it sweep up the massed ranks of the industry’s SMEs. It will be interesting to see whether the official data matches that view.
In our feature on busting sustainability myths, the focus was on energy efficiency, the performance gap and buildings’ operations. The “myths” discussed are all linked to sincerely held efforts to reduce buildings’ impact. But if they are based on theory rather than evidence, manufacturers’ claims rather than real-life experiences, then these “myths” needs to be identified and discussed so that best practice can move on.
Back in the political landscape, there is another dangerous myth – that sustainability isn’t a vote winner. As the parties position themselves for 2015, let’s hope the imperative to step up action on man-made climate change emerges as a key policy area. As the industry gets within sight of its 2025 deadline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from carbon from the built environment by 50%, a bit of legislative stick to go with all the CSR carrots wouldn’t go amiss.
Elaine Knutt, editor