he original plan was for the UK to be hosting COP26 in a few weeks time. Politicians, media and the public’s attention would have been focused Glasgow and a national conversation would be happening around Net Zero. Fast-forward to today, the event has been postponed and instead attention is focused on living through a second wave of the pandemic this winter.
Whilst COP26 might have been delayed, the issues can’t be put aside. Net Zero is as ambitious a target, as challenging to society, and as difficult for companies to deal with, as it was 12 months ago. If anything, recent events have revealed that our systems and society aren’t always best placed to deal with significant existential crisis.
However, I was delighted to see that the opportunity of the comprehensive spending review (CSR) was seized by ACE to champion practical and tangible solutions to embed a new approach across Government. Alongside economic recovery and levelling-up, the submission champions a carbon neutral future and rightly claims that the 2020’s are a “make or break” time for Net Zero. This is the moment to ensure all Departments are fully on board with the agenda, whether COP26 is taking place or not.
Alongside economic recovery and levelling-up, the submission champions a carbon neutral future and rightly claims that the 2020’s are a “make or break” time for Net Zero. Dr Sarah Prichard
The overarching themes of ACE’s representation were how to create a flexible and resilient future. Climate resilience is a big part of this, and we will need significant investments in flood and coastal defences to ensure our communities can withstand a changing environment. Broader than this however, the representation argues that we will have to switch to a fully-functioning zero emission economy. ACE members will deliver the buildings and retrofit our infrastructure to ensure it is compatible with this aim.
To kickstart our move to a fully Net Zero economy, the CSR suggests investments in CCS and hydrogen projects, in a move which should also be welcomed in our traditional industrial heartlands owing to the new green jobs created.
Outside of significant capital spend however, ensuring the planning regime locks in the idea that high-carbon infrastructure is impossible, delivering better regulatory systems to nurture robust environmental markets, and encouraging the take-up of the Construction Innovation Hub’s value toolkit – which finally allows us to move away from lowest cost to a more rounded definition of value – will be vitally important too.
As chair of ACE and EIC’s joint Net Zero taskforce, I have witnessed first-hand how integral both sets of members are to a carbon free future. Whether as the designers of our built environment or the developers of new environmental technology, ACE and EIC members have to not only be part of the conversation but lead the world towards a Net Zero future. ACE’s submission to the Comprehensive Spending Review is a great example of how our industry is finding the practical, tangible and realistic solutions to the biggest challenge we face.
Dr Sarah Prichard is UK Managing Director of Buro Happold, ACE board member and chair of the ACE and EIC Net Zero taskforce. This blog originally appeared in November's edition of Infrastructure Intelligence.