Climate change is the biggest issue of our time
The built environment is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions. Reduction in carbon emissions have to occur if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Ever since the industrial revolution in the 1800’s, we have been increasingly pumping gases into the atmosphere that are causing the earth to heat up more quickly than any other time in the history of the planet. Anything we burn gives off these gases, carbon dioxide in the main, whether it be for electricity generation, space heating or vehicle fuels. But there are other sources too, such as from industrial processes, deforestation, composting and animal farming.
While the earth has been much hotter in the past, the current rate of change is unprecedented and it is happening within in people’s lifetimes, rather than on geological timescales. The evidence is overwhelming that human activities are accelerating this situation. The consequences are well publicised: melting polar ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels, as well as more frequent and more extreme weather events such as wildfires, hurricanes and flooding.
In order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) has said we should restrict the average rise in global temperature to no more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Reaching this is truly global challenge and one that all countries, organisations and individuals must participate in.
Through the Climate Change Act, the UK Government has legally committed the UK to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero – a 100% reduction – by 2050, based on 1990 levels. In doing so, the UK became the first major economy in the world to adopt a long-term legal framework for reducing emissions through a system of “five-year” carbon budgets, providing a clear pathway towards this 2050 target.
Various sources state that the construction, operation and maintenance of the built environment accounts for between 40 – 45% of the UK’s carbon emissions. We have a role to play.
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, irrespective of our business, and importantly what we can do about it.
Science Based Targets
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.
The Construction 2025 targets and The Infrastructure Carbon Review both provide mechanisms and ambitions for our sector to actively tackle and reduce carbon emissions from the projects and assets we work on. The aim is to release the value of lower carbon solutions and to make carbon reduction part of the ongoing practice of the construction sector. There is a strong emphasis on how cost reduction actually reduces project costs both during construction and maintenance.
We must remember that direct emissions – exhaust from vehicles, stacks at power facilities – aren’t the only source, but also the embodied energy and carbon ‘locked up’ in the products we buy and use. This is the carbon released when energy is used to extract materials, transport, manufacturing process as well as the use and disposal of the product. We can all reduce our emissions by using less energy on site and in the things we buy by actively considering carbon from the design stage. Furthermore, reducing carbon can come in many guises: being resource efficient and creating less waste by using less material and recycling it will inherently have carbon benefits to.
Carbon - The Whole Story
How Skanska is committing to building with net-zero carbon by 2045. This will include its supply chain – something that is an industry first.