• 9 December 2020

Net Zero Taskforce report: Are we ready to deliver net zero?

Yesterday saw the launch of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering’s (ACE’s) and Environmental Industries Commission’s (EIC’s) joint Net Zero report.

Presented by the Net Zero taskforce – a combination of ACE and EIC members – the report outlines a carbon free future for our industry and wider society.

Neil Humphrey, Waterman’s Chief Operating Officer for Infrastructure and Environment and member of the ACE Net Zero Taskforce, said: “I am delighted to see the launch of the Net Zero report which represents a year of industry-wide research and discussion, and arrives just as the Climate Change Committee (CCC) publish their Sixth Carbon Budget. What is clear is that, across every sector, there is a long way to go if we are to meet the challenge of net zero, but we now have a route map for delivery.”

Considering the report findings, Neil stated: “One of the key challenges we have is that we are trying to retrofit a carbon agenda which touches on every aspect of our lives into an existing legislative and decision-making landscape which is both siloed and largely ill-equipped for the challenge that lies ahead.”

The government recently released details of their Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution covering clean energy, transport, nature and innovative technologies. Neil feels the plan is a good starting point but could go further: “Whilst the plan outlines key aspirations for an emission-free nation, it also needs to recognise the interdependencies that exist. Rather than deal with these in isolation, I’d like to see a whole system approach led centrally and coordinated within government. The Ten Point Plan sets out the building blocks of broad policy for the net zero transition, signalling that the government is willing to commit funding to tackling the issue. As highlighted by the Net Zero report, we now need policies and regulations to be aligned with both the wider market and projects themselves, without any disconnect with client procurement and business models. The government’s proposals for meeting the Carbon Budget will be critical and we hope to see them arrive in the first half of 2021.”

The report indicates that success to date has largely been achieved through reducing emissions in the power sector, together with picking up the easy wins that existed in the market, illustrating that the wider economy urgently needs to start delivering reductions. Neil said: “The report highlights the barriers to delivering net zero across each sector, demonstrating what needs to be done in each case to enable industries to put achieving net zero at the top of the agenda. We already have the technology to deliver two thirds of the net zero targets now, but our sector needs existing legislation – such as the Building Regulations – to drive commercial behaviours at a project level where clients are still cost-conscious. According to many estimates, between 65% and 75% of the built environment which will exist in 2050 has already been built and delaying action on net zero now will only increase the need for costly retrofitting in the future.”

To deliver a net zero built environment, a strategic change is required across the whole development sector. Pointing to today’s client business models and decision-making, Neil believes the focus is often on price rather than value: “By weighing up the costs of any investment or action rather than taking in to account the bigger picture and non-financial benefits, we will struggle to deliver net zero. We know that the climate emergency is an absolute. The CCC has now set out a balanced pathway to meet the Sixth Carbon Budget, listing the clear actions required across all sectors, and the government has also established its ambitions through their Ten Point Plan. We now need action, with policies strengthened and greater coordination throughout Government to provide the much-needed whole-system legislative changes required to deliver net zero by 2050.”

To read the Net Zero report, click here.

For more information on the Sixth Carbon Budget, click here.

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