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Builders demand radical action to meet zero-carbon target

Words: Huw Morris
Construction / iStock-48371773

A builders’ trade body is calling on the construction sector and a future government to take urgent action if the UK is to meet the 2050 zero-carbon target.

The National Federation of Builders’ Major Contractors Group warns that the construction industry must be transformed within a generation – otherwise it will fail the country and the government will not meet its zero-carbon ambitions.

It argues that construction directly influences 47 per cent of UK carbon emissions and 61 per cent of UK waste.

“The year 2050 might seem a long time away, but it’s really not much time to radically change our industry,” said group chair Mark Wakeford. “We must start now and the government, in whatever guise they return, must lead the way and make this a firm priority post-election. 

“Anyone still operating the same way as they are today in 20 years’ time will be lucky to still be in business. There are no excuses; government, contractors, the supply chain, manufacturers, designers and the trades must all embrace the challenge now.

Launching a report into the challenges and opportunities facing the construction sector, the group says a 30-mile trip in an average car will create 7.2kg of carbon dioxide. Under the UK’s original 80 per cent reduction target, 7.2kg represents an individual’s daily personal allowance of carbon dioxide in 2050 and “would not leave anything for the food they eat, the work they do or the buildings that our construction sector will need to deliver”. 

It calls on the government to promote low levels of embedded carbon within assets that they procure and to factor in a cost of carbon. Other recommendations include publicly funded bodies procuring construction work on the basis of natural capital accounting.

The group also outlines the funding challenges facing the country. Domestic housing requires a government spend of £15 billion a year, industrial and commercial property and infrastructure requires up to £10 billion a year, flood defences £1 billion a year, and the power sector £20 billion a year.

“But it’s about more than just money: the transformation required in the construction industry is multifaceted and it is critical that Industry and government take a joined-up approach to bring together developments in skills, procurement, design, products and materials, transport and more,” Wakeford added. 

The report is available here

Image credit | iStock