Editor’s Viewpoint: Hot topic…

Editor’s Viewpoint: Hot topic…

Writing in the October edition of PBM, editor Paul Davies considered the subject of sustainability and the industry’s drive to net zero carbon emissions…

Climate change, and the broader issues of sustainability and net zero carbon emissions, have been steadily rising up the news agenda again for some time. And in recent months, dramatic images of the wildfires in Greece and Turkey along with the devastating flooding in the north eastern states of America have somewhat crystalised the severity of the challenge.

Closer to home, the UK has experienced its own extended periods of extreme weather whilst the activities of groups such as Extinction Rebellion — which, depending on your point of view, are seen as either necessarily disruptive to successfully raise awareness or counter-productive in alienating potential allies to the cause — have become a regular feature of life in London and other cities.

In November, the UK plays host to the UN’s Climate Change Conference, commonly known as COP26. The international summit, taking place at the SCC in Glasgow, is intended to “bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement” and follows on from the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report — the first since 2013 — which starkly detailed the impact of human activity on the Earth’s climate. Indeed, more than one national newspaper reported its findings as a ‘Code Red’ for humanity.

“The National Audit Office has recently published its review of the doomed Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme — and the findings don’t exactly make for comfortable reading.”

Whilst varying degrees of cynicism remain alarmingly common among the commentariat, attitudes do seem to have softened within the industry — perhaps in recognition of the significant effect construction and its related fields have on the environment. From many earlier interventions being dismissed as little more than ‘greenwashing’, the sector now appears to be enthusiastically rising to the challenge.

And whether this is down to the personal feelings of business leaders to drive change, the unyielding requirement to meet government-imposed targets or simply to benefit from the commercial gains of a market hungry for sustainable solutions is largely immaterial. Similarly, it is always worth remembering that green improvements will often equate to more universal business efficiencies and reduced costs — despite the inevitable initial outlay and disruption.

Indeed, it is a topic we return to several times later on in this issue and the industry is to be applauded for the great strides it is taking towards a more sustainable solutions — from the growing numbers of CO2nstructZero Business Champions appointed by the Construction Leadership Council, to the plethora of programmes and initiatives being implemented by businesses nationwide.

If the carrot lies in the rather attractive goal of delivering a brighter future for the world — through enhanced energy efficient, customer-conscious and progressive businesses — the second aspect of the equation has room for improvement. So whilst the Government may have set out its vision to achieve net zero carbon by 2050, far greater detail on how this can be successfully delivered is required.

What’s more, lessons have to be learned from the failure of previous schemes and incentive programmes. For example, the National Audit Office has recently published its review of the doomed Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme — and the findings don’t exactly make for comfortable reading.

A litany of mistakes were detailed, but perhaps most troublingly was the crucial error of simply not engaging effectively with the industry tasked to deliver the programme: “(BEIS) did not sufficiently understand the challenges facing installers, failing to learn from its own previous energy schemes. Other energy schemes have shown the need for a robust evaluation of stakeholders’ views. The Department only consulted with installers after the scheme was announced, which limited the opportunities to include installer views in the scheme design.”

With an invigorated industry ready, willing and able to deliver, it is vital such mistakes are not repeated yet again.

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