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BSRIA urges revamped laws/incentives for carbon neutral built environment aims

Organisation joins a range of bodies to welcome “dramatic” IPCC warnings over climate change fears, but notes scepticism over current UK commitments to reshape energy policy for heating

BSRIA has called for new legislation or financial incentives to help realise a carbon neutral built environment in response to new findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that found the world is off-track in aims to prevent irreversible climate change.

The organisation claimed that the UN-established IPCC’s findings have backed renewed global efforts to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius despite current predictions pointing to an increase of double this recommended maximum level.

BSRIA technical director Colin Goodwin said unprecedented changes were required across the construction industry and political landscape to curb such a rise in temperatures, not least to ensure a widespread move away from fossil fuel use.

He added, “As an industry, we collectively need to, not only take action on climate change and stabilise the climate to avoid its worst impacts, but get on track to meet the UK’s climate change obligations. The UK’s net carbon emissions should be reduced by 60 per cent by 2030 – and to zero by 2050 or at least 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.”

“But there has been mounting scepticism about the UK’s own commitment to standing behind these words, as a result of a series of political policy u-turns on climate change – most of them in the built environment.”

Mr Goodwin said that industry, such as companies working in the building services sector, would hope to see governments introduce domestic policies to help better realise global low carbon ambitions set out in the Paris Agreement that was agreed in 2015.

He added, “Future technology in renewables and the move to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon usage in the built environment is crucial.”

“BSRIA is committed to supporting the UK government in reducing carbon and, indeed, its position on this. Is now the time to call on government for legislation to go further? Or offer incentives for green and clean technologies?”

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has also welcomed the publication of the findings in trying to create greater political urgency to introduce legislation to that can help curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Jenifer Baxter, the institution’s head of engineering, said that sufficient technical knowledge already existed to realise aims of limiting global temperature gains to 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, tough political decisions would need to be taken around energy efficiency that may not be popular publicly, she added.

Dr Baxter identified the IPCC’s stated target of having 70 to 80 per cent of electricity generated from renewable sources as an ambitious pledge that would require much wider consideration of how best to reduce carbon emissions from power generation.

She said, “Currently renewables are backed up by gas when they are not generating and in the UK, gas is backed up by coal. Carbon capture and storage may help to some extent, but this infrastructure runs the risk of locking us into a fossil fuel-based system.”

“We are not yet in the position to create enough long-term storage from environmentally friendly sources to fill the supply gap when renewables are not generating.”

Dr Baxter argued that there were limited options in the UK at present for hydro power, while existing battery technologies did not have sufficient storage power. She also noted that liquid air and hydrogen storage solutions remained in an early development stage.

She added, “We should explore the relationship between nuclear and producing hydrogen through electrolysis to provide decarbonised fuel for heat, transport and industry.”

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