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PAS 2080: A low carbon game-changer Mark Enzer

The world’s first standard for managing infrastructure carbon offers practical ‘how to’ guidance to cut cost, improve efficiency and slow climate change.

It is increasingly clear that cutting carbon cuts costs. A causal link was identified in the Treasury’s ‘Infrastructure Carbon Review’ (ICR) in 2013. Research for the ICR conducted by the Green Construction Board’s Infrastructure Working Group concluded that if the UK infrastructure industry adopted the practices pioneered by those leading on carbon reduction, it would benefit the UK economy by almost £1.5bn per year.

Carbon reduction makes this economic dividend possible by stimulating innovation and driving efficiency. Crudely, carbon is a proxy for material and energy use: in an increasingly resource-constrained and competitive world innovative, low carbon companies will have an advantage in global markets as well as at home.

The ICR set out 10 recommendations, encompassing leadership, communication and culture, metrics and governance, commercial solutions, innovation and standards.

One of these recommendations was the creation of a new publicly accessible specification for carbon reduction.

PAS 2080, developed with the British Standards Institution by Mott MacDonald and Arup under the aegis of the GCB, is the world’s first standard on carbon management in infrastructure.

Carbon, cost and climate

Direct cost benefit is only one part of the carbon reduction story. The climate is now an average 1°C warmer than it was before the industrial revolution and the pace of warming has accelerated in the last 50 years. On our current emissions trajectory, our planet will be 5°C hotter by the end of the 21st century than it was at the start of the 19th.

World diplomats gathered at the COP21 climate change negotiations in Paris in December 2015 to discuss carbon reduction measures to keep the temperature rise below 2°C. While the talks resulted in unprecedented agreement on the need for action, we can’t expect governments to solve the problem alone.

It is down to individuals and organisations to act.

In June 2015, Mott MacDonald and Anglia Ruskin University published a report, ‘Climate Change and Business Survival’ which showed that global insured losses attributed to climate change have risen from US$40bn a year in 1980 to about US$160bn today.

Due to rapid global development, the value of the world’s asset base will rise from US$20trn to US$80trn over the coming 20 years. Pitted against this extra infrastructure, the worsening climate will drive annual global economic losses of US$1trn by 2035.

The changes in store over the coming two decades are locked in due to historic emissions, so the report calls for investment to build resilience.

But we have the power to change things beyond that. By acting now to reduce carbon emissions, we can influence the Earth’s climate beyond 2035. And that needs to be a key priority for everybody involved in designing and delivering and operating infrastructure: our commercial survival depends on it.

Starting and accelerating change

Until now, businesses had to steer their own carbon cutting agendas, following the example of leading clients that have cut cost by cutting carbon. Whether you’re some way into your low carbon journey or wondering how to get started, PAS 2080 offers the chance to advance rapidly and reap the rewards. For many, complying with the standard will lead to a rethink of ‘business as usual’. As always, it will be businesses that are most capable at change that gain the most.

Common language: PAS 2080 and its accompanying guidance document provide a common language and framework for asset owners/managers, designers, constructors and product/material suppliers to manage whole life carbon. It paves the way for consistency of methods and reporting which will make it easier to talk about carbon management and cost right across the supply chain, and right across the infrastructure sector.

About managing, not measuring: There are already many standards which detail how to quantify carbon. PAS 2080 references these but differs in providing a framework for managing carbon, focusing on how members of the value chain behave when delivering projects and programmes of work – delivering reductions and attendant benefits.

Demanding the right behaviours: PAS 2080 highlights the importance of strong leadership and early supplier engagement, and the need for a culture and governance systems that encourage and reward challenge and innovation. It provides guidance on setting targets, establishing carbon baselines, and reporting performance transparently. It also sets out stages throughout the infrastructure delivery lifecycle at which leaders should challenge their supply chain, in order to achieve the greatest carbon and cost benefits.

Non regulatory: PAS 2080 is a voluntary standard. This allows businesses to find their own way to best practice.

Complementing existing standards: PAS 2080 complements an already significant suite of standards focused on carbon quantification, which include PAS 2050 for products. It is compatible with standards for BIM and information management to aid integration of carbon management with other developments in the industry.

Prospects for a global standard: Up to 95% of the work the BSI does is international, shaping what global best practice looks like. PAS 2080 could in time lead to an ISO on carbon management. It has been authored to meet World Trade Organisation requirements as well as standards for public open consultation, paving the way for it to become a global standard. Being PAS 2080 compliant will give firms an ‘early mover advantage’ in global markets.

PAS 2080 will not guarantee low carbon success. But if applied intelligently with good business management then it will be a powerful enabler to cut emissions, drive down cost and unleash innovation in design and technology.

PAS 2080 will be published by BSI in May 2016.

Mark Enzer was the lead author of the Infrastructure Carbon Review and is the sector leader for water at Mott MacDonald Group

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