The Environmental Industries Commission, working with ACE, is leading the way in galvanising the industry and its stakeholders as they strive to achieve net zero in the infrastructure sector, says Poppy Kettle.
Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of resilience within society and infrastructure and there is a general consensus that more concentration needs to be put into net zero projects. Despite the postponement of the COP26 global conference in Glasgow earlier this year, the ACE/EIC net zero report will still be released this October and is coming towards the final stages of research.
Following a survey we conducted, seeking insights from experts across ACE and EIC members, we found that technical feasibility was not the main challenge holding us back from achieving net zero. The main pressures we encountered were surrounding client expectations, planning frameworks and regulatory challenges, amongst many others. To achieve net zero, it is essential that these pressures are resolved to meet the technical capacities we already possess.
The ACE and EIC net zero group is made up of leaders across the engineering consultancy sector. Following the survey, the group met in order to identify the sectors that lacked significant research into how to mitigate these challenges. With the challenges faced in the ports and rail sectors being of immediate concern, we have conducted two workshops bringing together leaders within these sectors to further inform the research being done by ACE and EIC. We are also conducting a further two workshops looking at the roads and buildings sectors in September.
In recognising the 2045 timeline for Scotland and following on from a meeting that ACE Scotland had with Michael Matheson MSP, the Scottish government’s cabinet secretary for transport, infrastructure and connectivity, earlier this year, we are creating a paper for the Scottish government on reaching the net zero 2045 target. With the help of experts in Scottish infrastructure we established the main challenges and the capacity for ACE and EIC members to support the Scottish government in achieving their net zero agenda.
Net zero frameworks have not yet been interpreted into the planning system, something that is essential in reaching the UK net zero targets. Considering this, ACE and EIC have been working with Lancaster University to create a paper assessing the role of environmental impact assessments in meeting the UK net zero 2050 targets. This paper is looking at qualitative and quantitative results based on interviews with leaders across the industry and is an insight into the way the planning system may develop to facilitate the changes needed in the infrastructure industry.
Throughout the project, we have interviewed hundreds of member experts across the engineering consultancy sector who have helped to inform our research and shape the project. In doing this we have learned of many case studies that highlight the amazing work that members are doing in net zero and so are creating a database of member case studies.
As net zero is a growing but still emerging area, we are working towards a comprehensive map of members and wider stakeholders with projects in net zero. This will include universities as well as cross-company initiatives, with the hope of allowing members to find areas of collaboration and to identify the areas that still lack significant work.
Poppy Kettle is a net zero policy executive at the Environmental Industries Commission.