Ecobuild latest: Green Construction Board sets out interim carbon reduction targets to keep sector on track to meet 2050 target

Mike Putnam

Carbon emissions from some sectors of the built environment will need to reduce by up to 40% by 2017 to keep the sector on track to meeting its 2050 targets, the Green Construction Board has said.

The Low Carbon Routemap, published by the Green Construction Board at Ecobuild this week, sets out what carbon savings are needed from the construction industry to achieve an 80% reduction by 2050, therefore contributing to the government’s legally binding 80% reduction target under the Climate Change Act.

The low carbon plan contains targets for the domestic sector to reduce operational carbon emissions by 34% on 2010 levels by 2017, with the non-domestic sector required to reduce emissions by 24% over the same period.

Targets for individual sub-sectors vary, with communications and transport challenged to reduce emissions by 40% by 2017, and the education sector asked to reduce emissions by 13%.

Mike Putnam, president and chief executive of Skanska UK and co-chair of the Green Construction Board, said the low carbon plan would “inform the ongoing dialogue between government and industry”.

He added: “I firmly believe that it is possible to significantly reduce carbon by applying clear leadership and challenging solutions, focusing upon whole life costs of the asset, covering both capital and operational carbon, as well as costs.”

Business minister Michael Fallon - who co-chairs the Green Construction Board - said the low carbon plan would also help shape the government’s industrial strategy for construction, which will be published in the summer.

“It’s a valuable contribution to our continuing work with industry and shows that even closer collaboration is required in the future if we want to get closer to achieving our objective,” he said.

“While the routemap shows that the 80% carbon reduction target is a very challenging one, we must not lose sight of the overall objective which is to minimise carbon emissions.”

However, sustainability expert David Strong was sceptical of the value of a fresh plan for carbon emissions reduction.

“The question I would ask is: ‘Is anybody going to go to prison if those targets are not achieved?’ You could put down any figures. Unless they are supported by action by government then we are all being busy fools,” he said.

Key findings of the routemap include:

  • Meeting the 80% reduction target is technically possible, but very challenging

  • Success is dependant on improving the economic viability of technical solutions and addressing market failures

  • Taking responsibility for carbon reduction at an industry level is essential to driving uptake and delivering results as quickly as possible

  • The drive to 80% carbon reduction represents an economic opportunity, particularly in retrofitting domestic buildings