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18 DEC 2019

NET ZERO - THE CHALLENGE IS ENORMOUS...

AECOM's Director of Sustainable Development, Robert Spencer on the Pledge to Net Zero

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limate breakdown is undoubtedly one of the most significant challenges facing the UK. Earlier this year, the Government committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which has focused minds in the business world on what we can do to step up and create solutions that get us ahead of the target.

For the multidisciplinary consultancy sector this is a tumultuous time. The crisis is on. Never before has there been such interest and urgent demand for the solutions we can provide, nor so much scrutiny on how we go about doing it. 

That scrutiny comes from within – our people want us to be doing the right thing, to be on the right side. It also comes from the public – people are expecting urgent and effective responses, not only to the climate emergency, but to the biodiversity crisis also.  It also comes from our clients – they want to be working with trusted advisers, to come up with ambitious, globally leading, low carbon solutions and programmes that will bend down the national emissions curve, getting us to net zero. 

The challenge is enormous – shifting an entire economy onto a new footing, reliant on clean energy, working with nature, delivering resilient communities.

Estimates vary slightly, but there is consensus that the construction, operation and maintenance of the built environment accounts for between 40 and 45% of total UK carbon emissions.  So, as multidisciplinary consultants enabling a more sustainable built environment that allows nature and communities alike to flourish, we have our work cut out.

Given all that, it is easy to say we are far too busy working on important solutions for our clients to address our own organisation’s carbon performance, but that would be a grave mistake.

We need to walk the talk.

That is why, joining forces with WSP, the Society for the Environment, IEMA, the UK Green Building Council and the Aldersgate Group, as well as ACE and EIC, we have thrown down the gauntlet to our peers and colleagues in the environmental and infrastructure solutions sector to stand with us and pledge to net zero.

Pledge to Net Zero is the first industry-wide multidisciplinary consultancy sector commitment in the UK requires pledgers to commit to and set verified science-based targets with the Science-based Targets Initiative (SBTi).

Introducing the pledge to other businesses not only sets a prime example for consultancy companies across the UK, but it also positively challenges them to integrate an effective climate response into their wider business objectives and strategy.

Now down to the nitty gritty: there three ways in which businesses can come on board and support us with this initiative. They must:

  1. Commit to and set science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets in support of the transition to a net zero carbon economy.
  2. Publicly report greenhouse gas emissions and progress against this target each year.
  3. Publish one piece of research or thought-leadership piece each year on practical steps they have taken to deliver a net zero economy.

As business leaders in the sector, we must seize the opportunity to demonstrate effective pathways to reaching net zero. 

Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer

AECOM, Director, Sustainable Development

Robert leads AECOM UK & Ireland's sustainability work.

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