UKGBC urges business leaders to embrace net zero measures

Syntegra Managing Director Alan King is fortunate to be a member of the UK Green Building Council’s Leaders Network which recently received a very useful update on key developments in the built environment sector and what organisations can focus on in a bid to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.

Below are some of the headlines delivered in a round-up by Julie Hirigoyen, Chief Executive of the UKGBC, ranging from worrying international ecology reports to the declaration of a climate emergency, energy use intensity targets and  the launch of the UKGBC’s own reference document, ‘Net Zero Carbon Buildings: A Framework Definition’.

She highlighted specifically to members the ‘extraordinary political and societal mood change over recent months towards climate change and species loss’.

Looking back to last October, she referred to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishing its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C (SR15)<> clarifying the very serious threats of global temperature rises of both 1.5°C and 2°C. This report, published by the world’s leading climate scientists, warned that we only have twelve years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C.

Also last October, the WWF published its Living Planet Report 2018<> describing the devastating 60% decline in global wildlife populations between 1970 and 2014. More recently, in May this year, the Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) published its own global assessment of nature<>, forecasting that around a million species now face extinction within decades.

WWF UK’s Chief Executive Tanya Steele told the UKGBC’s Leaders Network there should be a reverse to the decline in biodiversity by 2030 and urged business leaders to support moves to campaign for net zero UK emissions by 2045.

Following the movement where children in hundreds of countries around the world started missing school to ask that their Governments enact policies that provide a safe pathway well under 2°C (in line with the Paris agreement), the UK Parliament unanimously passed a motion to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’. This followed both Scotland and Wales declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’, and 59 Councils across the UK, 42 of whom have set a target date for net zero emissions by 2030, 12 haven’t yet set a date, and 4 are aiming for 2050. The very next morning, the Committee on Climate Change advised that the UK should completely eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – not just carbon dioxide. According to this report Net Zero – the UK’s contribution to stopping global warming<>, this target would be possible using technologies available today at a cost of no more than 1-2% of GDP by 2050. ‘While we await the Government’s response to the CCC’s advice, it would seem probable that this will result in a statutory change to the Climate Change Act 2008, from the 80% emissions reduction by 2050 target to a 100% reduction target,’ Julie said. ‘Norway has already agreed a net zero goal by 2030 and Sweden by 2045 – so we would be following the lead of other progressive nations.’

She told the Leaders Network that business leaders need to rethink business models to move towards a zero carbon economy and be prepared to adopt more aggressive decarbonisation targets in the next decade which will require ‘unprecedented leadership and foresight from business leaders today,’ she added.

With the UK’s built environment responsible for approximately 40% of our national carbon footprint and a priority area for action, the UKGBC launched a Net Zero Carbon Buildings Framework<>. ‘This is a crucial moment for our sector leaders to respond,’ said Julie. ‘Ultimately, all those involved in the planning, design, construction, operation or refurbishment of buildings must start to measure and address the operational, embodied, and whole-life carbon impacts of those assets.’

So far, almost 100 organisations have fed ideas and details into its development indicating ‘strong industry buy-in’.

In the next few months, the Advancing Net Zero programme will start setting energy use intensity targets and arrange a European Summit to share international perspectives.

‘I would urge you all to commit to net zero carbon buildings in some capacity,’ Julie concluded. (see Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment),<> ‘Together, we can leverage the strength of our network to affect transformational change.’