Climate change is the biggest issue of our time
The built environment is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions. Deep emissions cuts have to occur urgently if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
An increasing global reliance on fossil fuels – alongside emissions from industrial processes, deforestation, and animal farming – has meant an accelerating rise in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and global temperature over the past 200 years. This is resulting in climate breakdown: with more frequent and intense storms, droughts, wildfires, sea levels rising and devastating losses for people and nature across the world; delay in action will result in an increasingly uninhabitable world.
In order to avoid catastrophic impacts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) has encouraged efforts to restrict the average rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Reaching this is a truly global challenge, one that all countries, organisations and individuals must participate in. The UK Government, through the Climate Change Act, has committed to reducing its greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050, and 78% by 2035.
The built environment sector in the UK is responsible for around 40% of our total emissions. Meeting the needs of society within the ecological boundaries of our planet demands a reorganisation of the way we design, build and maintain buildings and infrastructure. Everyone and every organisation has a role to play. And importantly everyone should have access to and be included in the move to a low carbon society – a just transition.
The resources in this section of the School will help you to understand the causes of climate change, why it is such an urgent issue for us all to tackle, and importantly what we can do about it.
FREE Carbon Calculator for supply chains
Developed in Partnership with the Sustainability Tool and the School’s Climate Action Group, the free Carbon Calculator aims to support supply chains with calculating their greenhouse gas emissions, and provides clients with a view of emissions embedded in their supply chains.
With 80-99 per cent of the built environment’s total carbon footprint coming from the supply chain, the carbon calculator will play an integral role in supporting businesses in their fight against climate change.
Science Based Targets: Sustainability Short
An increasing number of businesses are setting science-based targets to reduce their carbon emissions. This Sustainability Short looks at what SBTs are, why they’re relevant to you, and how you can participate.
Direct emissions – exhaust from vehicles, stacks at power facilities – aren’t the only source of greenhouse gases. The embodied energy and carbon ‘locked up’ in products, materials and assets is also important to consider. Emissions are released when energy is used to extract raw materials, to transport goods, and in manufacturing, as well as in the use and disposal of objects.
We can all reduce our emissions by using less energy on site, procuring goods with carbon in mind, and considering whole life carbon in the design stage. Reducing carbon can come in many guises: being resource efficient and creating less waste by using less materials and recycling will inherently have carbon benefits too.
The Construction Playbook, the National Infrastructure Strategy, the Government’s Net Zero Strategy – Build Back Better and frameworks such as the Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the Built Environment and the Carbon Reduction Code provide mechanisms and ambitions for our sector to actively tackle and reduce carbon emissions from the projects and assets we work on.