CCC Insights: Low carbon construction vital to meet climate targets

CCC Insights: Low carbon construction vital to meet climate targets

The international scope for mitigating carbon in infrastructure is enormous, says Dr Jannik Giesekem, a climate policy researcher at Leeds University. Speaking at the CCC low carbon infrastructure Seminar in Birmingham, he indicated it could amount to several gigatons of CO2 emissions.

An assessment of the 14 biggest markets, showed there could be more than 4 gigatons of emissions in their infrastructure supply chains.

“At a global scale this is potentially a gigaton solution if you can deliver the best practice across the construction industry in these countries,” he explained.

Low carbon infrastructure projects 

The immediate priorities for reducing carbon emissions in the UK are energy and transport which need to be reduced to near zero as quickly as possible. A longer term challenge is reducing capital carbon and in this regard low carbon infrastructure construction can make a substantial contribution.

“The UN Committee on Climate Change thinks that the use of negative emissions technology could take a maximum of 100 megatons of CO2 out of the UK economy. To be a net zero nation we therefore have to reduce the other emissions by 100 megatons which will involve drastic reductions in other areas, particularly construction and also aviation, agriculture etc.

“The UN Committee on Climate Change has recommended that  we should be living in a net zero emissions economy shortly by the middle of the century. That means we cannot afford to wait 20 years to start acting on these other areas. We need to be working on those now.

“At the moment we don’t have a picture of how that level of reduction can be achieved but that is because we have not looked at options such as construction…it is up to us to generate those options that help us get down to that 100 megatons target.”

Effective low carbon supply chains

The Low Carbon Route Map for the built environment developed by the Green Construction Board has set out a target trajectory and steps needed to deliver and an 80% reduction in emissions from the built environment. The latest update shows we are behind that target, Giesekam says.

“We have been reducing emissions, particularly operational carbon, but that has been offset by an increase in capital carbon emissions as we have built more coming out of the recession.

“To get back on this trajectory we need to get more of the industry working to reduce carbon together. It is only when we get the supply chain fully aligned and working effectively  that we can deliver the scale of reduction required to get back on that target.”

See CCC Insights interview with Jannik Geisekam below.