The prime minister has set the UK a target to reduce carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. This will be impossible to achieve without action by the property sector, given that the built environment is responsible for 43% of UK emissions.

David Partridge Argent

David Partridge

A host of organisations have been working together to help the entire property sector to achieve these targets. In July, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) published its CO2nstructZero Performance Framework, which aims to set out headline commitments for carbon reduction and track progress.

The commitments range from tracking the number of domestic retrofits achieved and seeking to eliminate the majority of diesel plant from construction sites by 2035 through to offering alternative net zero design options to clients. There is also the commitment to target 1,500 of the sector’s businesses and clients to sign up to a measurable carbon reduction plan by 2025, as well as driving reductions in the amount of energy used to produce key products.

Following significant consultation, the framework draws on extensive and detailed work already undertaken across the sector. It will aim to motivate businesses to action and provide the government and industry with a comprehensive view of progress towards net zero, using a dashboard where sector-wide data is collated on a quarterly basis. The CLC’s next update is in October, just prior to the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26.

The CLC has been working closely with officials from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and will continue to report the sector’s progress on net zero to the government and provide evidence of where government intervention is essential to enable – or even accelerate – the sector’s net zero achievements.

It is essential that all participants in the property sector work closely and holistically together 

The framework is very closely aligned with government policy and draws on emerging thinking on carbon measurement and assessment.

This initial version of the framework is intended to both bring together the myriad existing commitments and initiatives being pursued in the market and to galvanise the construction industry to coalesce around a set of feasible, pragmatic and measurable metrics that the industry can pursue and report against.

Construction work

Source: Shutterstock / sculpies

There is every expectation that those metrics will be further refined and evolved in consultation with government and with specialist bodies, including the Cabinet Office COP Unit, Green Construction Board, Government Construction Board, British Property Federation, UK Green Building Council and Construction Products Association.

Overcoming the challenge

If we are to face up to and overcome the challenge that we now all accept that climate change has thrown at us (or, more accurately, we have thrown at ourselves) in a responsible manner, it is essential that all participants in the property sector work closely and holistically together – from the construction supply chain, which creates the real estate in the first place, to the investors and financiers who own it long term.

This will be equally applicable to the existing built stock, which is arguably significantly more complex to retrofit.

The CO2nstructZero Advisory Board, which I am deputy co-chair of, has sought to bring expertise and advice from beyond the confines of the construction industry itself.

We must ensure its work will sit within the wider activities of the sector – including the recently published Future Homes Task Force delivery plan and UKGBC Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap. To build on the momentum created by this initiative, it is essential the sector actively engages to report on and further refine the metrics that have been set out in this initial performance framework.

The CO2nstructZero team and I would very much welcome the continued support and engagement of the sector as we continue to ramp up action on this critical subject in the lead-up to COP26.

David Partridge is BPF president and chairman of Argent Related