If a developer cannot achieve net zero targets, then they should have to reduce what is built or pay for offsetting, says Gary Clark, regional leader of science and technology at HOK
We need to see a “code red” annual carbon budget implemented for UK buildings that aligns with the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global budget of 500 billion tonnes of emissions over the next 30 years. If we go above this figure, then we will overshoot the 1.5ºC temperature increase and face inevitable catastrophic climate events.
Based on this, the estimated annual budget for UK buildings is 67 million tonnes of carbon a year for the next 30 years. Assuming a linear regression, we must meet this target by 2035 to align ourselves with the global IPCC budget. This would equate to cutting 55% of our current building emissions, including for our 45 million existing buildings.
How can this can be delivered? First, we need everyone to sign up to the RIBA 2030 climate challenge targets. To ensure that this happens, the government must enshrine these targets in planning and building regulations to align with its legally binding net zero commitments.
What this means is that if a developer cannot achieve net zero targets, then they will have to reduce what is built or pay for offsetting. This will make refurbishment a more attractive option, since two-thirds of embodied carbon emissions come from within the foundations and superstructure.
Gary Clark is regional leader of science and technology at HOK
Ideas for positive change
This is part of our Countdown to Cop26 coverage in the lead up to the world climate conference in Glasgow in November. We will be publishing more big ideas about ways to tackle the climate emergency over the coming weeks and you can find more here.