Alex Greenwood, Senior carbon management consultant
The UK is well developed in its awareness of, and response to, climate change. The landmark Climate Change Act of 2008 was the first of its kind in the world, and the recent government commitment to net zero shows a high level of ambition to drive decarbonisation across industries. Net zero requires challenging next steps within the built environment to both remedy existing, and develop new low-carbon infrastructure. There is still a long way to go, but awareness is growing and carbon management is being supported (and required) on infrastructure projects in the UK.
Mature infrastructure networks in the UK have shaped expertise of carbon hotspots and knowledge of how to manage these accordingly. But the impacts of climate change reach far beyond the UK, with heatwaves, droughts and extreme weather events, as evidence of climate change around the world. As a result, there has been a significant jump in awareness and commitment across the globe.
The historic 2015 Paris Agreement has been ratified by 187 out of 197 parties and this year, climate change protests have shown the issue is resonating with people worldwide. Countries and organisations alike are beginning to understand the need to deliver low carbon infrastructure. Given the expertise and current ambition of the UK, there is an opportunity for us to export our knowledge and build international partnerships to develop a global low carbon economy.
Infrastructure is needed to improve the quality of lives everywhere; this sector will inevitably expand as more countries aim to develop more robust and sustainable infrastructure networks. Although vital to economic and social development, infrastructure projects are a key source of greenhouse gas emissions. About 70% of global emissions come from energy infrastructure alone and in the UK around 60% of 2018 emissions came from energy and transport sectors combined. It is therefore important that infrastructure is delivered in a low-carbon way to minimise impact.
So why would international clients and projects consider using UK experience to help? In the UK, we’ve got a long track record of working on carbon management, across different sectors and with both private and public sector clients. We are in a key position to help reduce the impact of infrastructure projects around the world.
The development of infrastructure will especially play a crucial role for developing and newly-industrialised countries. As things stand, climate change is likely to have devastating impacts on some of these communities. Thanks to our involvement in significant infrastructure projects in the UK, we can take these learnings abroad to help others implement best practice from the outset. Not only will this help to mitigate sources of carbon that are fuelling global climate change, but will also create resilience through pioneering infrastructure projects and collaborative global partnerships.
Through knowledge-sharing, infrastructure clients can begin to understand where their key impacts lie and once that understanding is in place, move to develop their carbon management processes. Carbon management is essential to provide important frameworks and tools for clients to push the carbon agenda and really drive decarbonisation within their organisation and projects.
Our adept methodology ascertains the importance of starting with quantification (you cannot manage what you cannot measure!). The nature of carbon management work tends to develop from number crunching; however this is a catalyst to inspire larger opportunities for innovation and reduction.
This year we gained independent PAS 2080 Carbon Management in Infrastructure (2016) accreditation for our global operations – this involves carbon management for all parties working on infrastructure projects. The collaboration between the UK and global practitioners means carbon management project experience can be joined with the right client relationships to develop resilient carbon management processes globally.