UK built environment ‘off track’ on net-zero targets warns leading trade group

UKGBC Report: The built environment sector is ‘significantly off track’ from the path required to meet the UK’s net-zero objectives.

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has warned that the built environment sector is ‘significantly off track’ from the path required to meet the UK’s net-zero objectives.

In its latest progress report, the UKGBC found that between 2018 and 2022, carbon emissions from the UK built environment fell by 13% – six percentage points less than the 19% required to meet the UK’s net-zero commitments. In real terms, the shortfall represents 11MtCO2e of carbon emissions, equivalent to the annual polluting output of 6.5 million cars. 

The UKGBC said the lack of progress will require key built environment sectors to decarbonise nearly twice as fast over the next two years to get back on track for the 2050 net-zero target – the year the UK is legally required to have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 100% from 1990 levels.

Among the conclusions of the report were that current policies and practices are not sufficient to achieve the country’s targets. It also outlined a lack of data and transparency on the actual performance of buildings.

Key calls of action from the report include: 

  • The need to improve the rates of retrofit efficiency improvements work in homes
  • More robust regulatory landscape to ensure new homes and buildings will be ready for a net zero future. 
  • Clear national legislation to give climate and nature priority in planning decisions
  • A system of local carbon budgets to enable local decision-making aligned with national targets.
  • A plea for political leaders to reject what the report called a recent U-turn away from the country’s net zero goals for heating and energy policy. 

The report is the first progress update on the UKGBC’s Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, published at COP26 in Glasgow. The roadmap set industry-wide actions for achieving net-zero carbon in the construction, operation, and demolition of buildings and infrastructure in the UK by 2050. 

The built environment is the largest source of climate emissions in the UK economy after surface transport (according to the UKGBC).

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