The role of the construction sector on Achieving Net Zero Carbon Emissions
In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero carbon emissions law, with a target to bring all greenhouse emissions to net zero by 2050. The net zero target is one of the most ambitious in the world, and will require balancing emissions with schemes to offset the equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, including planting trees or carbon capture and storage methods.
COP26 aimed to coordinate global parties in order to accelerate action towards reducing these nations’ impact of climate change on the planet.
In the wake of the government announcing its Net Zero strategy and with COP26 complete, the Genuit Group is committed to reaching the government’s carbon reduction target by 2030 and is setting course for achieving net zero carbon emissions in the next thirty years.
The group is one of the largest construction products manufacturers to make the commitment under the Business Ambition 1.5°C campaign.
The Business Ambition 1.5°C initiative is seen as the international gold standard of environmental target setting. It aims to get companies to set carbon emission reduction targets that are in line with the latest scientific guidance.
It is so important for major UK construction manufacturers to take the lead in transforming the way we build and influence how we live to secure a better future for our environment. Here's why:
The carbon impact of the built environment
The built environment is a major source of carbon emissions, both in its production and the overall building lifecycle. In fact, this industry contributes around 27% of the UK’s total carbon footprint1. Half of this comes from energy used in buildings and infrastructure. What’s more, the way buildings are heated results in around 10% of the nation’s carbon footprint, due to burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat. To achieve the target of net zero emissions, it’s important to change the way buildings are heated and continue to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.
There is a growing recognition that it is more sustainable to refit and repurpose existing buildings and assets than opt for demolition, and if the scale moves towards retrofit over new-build, an increasing volume of carbon will remained captured in place.
Retrofitting will become a much larger sector, with more than 270,000 homes needing to be upgraded in the North of England alone by 2035 to contribute towards UK’s net zero ambition2.
Renewable technologies for heating systems
Heat pumps, both ground, and air source versions, and solar water heating, are just some examples of renewable technologies that can be used to reduce carbon emissions from households. These avenues can provide a way for the built environment to offer low carbon heating solutions.
Heat pumps typically use less fossil fuels than most other systems, working by absorbing heat from a source and transferring it to a fluid. The heat is usually transferred from fluid to water, which is then used to provide heating typically via underfloor heating systems, and hot water.
Solar water heating works by taking advantage of solar panels fitted to the roof. The panels collect the heat from the sun to heat the water in a hot water cylinder. This is a renewable heating system and can provide hot water throughout the year. However, you may still need a boiler or immersion heater to boost the temperature during the winter.
The key to success is in developing the skills base to undertake this work. This means retraining contractors and heating engineers. Despite the daunting scale of the task, demand for learning the skills is high. One scheme – the People Powered Retrofit project in Manchester – is hosting webinars with 1,000 people signing in to find out how they can get to work.
Incentives and support schemes
The Government has proposed a number of schemes to provide financial incentives to switch to low carbon heating solutions. The Green Gas Support Scheme (GGSS) will provide quarterly payments over 15 years, based on the amount of biomethane that is injected into the gas grid. This will help to increase the proportion of green gas in the grid, leading to lower carbon emissions.
Similarly, the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) means many homeowners could claim for biomass boilers, solar water heating and heat pumps. Payments are based on the amount of renewable heat made by the heating system.
The UK Green Building Council (UKBGC) is also bullish about the prospect of achieving net zero. The UKBGC launched the Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap which has modelled the emissions reduction potential for a wide range of future actions. It is encouraging that the calculations demonstrate that achieving net zero is possible, but it will only be delivered through robust policy and regulation.
In terms of finance, the tide is turning with more and more capital being directly linked to sustainability targets and action. Currently more than 100 equity issuers, including Genuit Group, listed on the London Stock Exchange hold the Green Economy Mark. This recognises issuers that generate more than 50% of revenues from green products and services3. This emphasises the direction many businesses are taking, as they aim to change to low carbon business models moving forward.
To find out more about what the Genuit Group is doing to reduce its global impact, get in touch.
1 UK Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap data published in Building magazine (15.10.21)
2Retrofitting: why carbon-reducing renovations are going to be big business published in The Guardian(18.08.21)