The UK’s Commitment to Climate Change

The UK’s Commitment to Climate Change and how the facilities maintenance sphere will be affected.

The Implementation of Change

The 2nd of May 2019 was an auspicious day for the United Kingdom. The Committee of Climate Change (CCC), official advisors to the governments of the UK, Scotland and Ireland, announced that the UK should legislate for, and reach, a net zero emissions goal by 2050. This gives the UK just over 30 years to end its contribution to climate change, delivering on its 2015 signed commitment to the Paris Agreement.

What does the target include?

Net zero refers to the practice of removing as much carbon from the atmosphere as is produced. In short, this is a balancing act between emissions and removal; slashing the amount of carbon dioxide that is put into the atmosphere. Unavoidable emissions should be captured and stored, or offset by the planting of more trees.

What needs to change?

The stark reality is that the people of Britain will need to make considerable changes to the way they live and conduct their daily business. In particular, the UK will need to address the way buildings are heated, how power is generated, farming practices used and the food consumed by the nation.

As an example, in 2018 the CCC recommended that the UK would need to reduce the number of sheep and cattle by between one-fifth and one-half; as these species contribute the most to emissions. A 20-50% reduction in lamb and beef pastures could release 3-7 million hectares of grassland; which could then be repurposed to grow forests and biofuels which would assist in soaking up CO2.

Another example is the impact on homeowners. The CCC says that no new home should be connected to the gas grid after 2025. Electrified heating will be more common, but hydrogen is another potential alternative to natural gas if it can be produced cleanly.

Which measures have already been taken?

Part of the committee’s report stated that “the foundations are in place throughout the UK and the policies required to deliver key pillars of a net zero economy are already active or in development.”

These foundations include:

  • A supply of low-carbon electricity
  • Efficient buildings and low-carbon heating
  • Electric vehicles
  • Developing carbon capture and storage technology and low-carbon hydrogen
  • Stopping biodegradable waste going to landfill
  • Phasing-out potent fluorinated gases
  • Increasing tree planting
  • Introducing measures to reduce the emissions on farms

This is clearly a strong start, but the CCC urges the strengthening of these foundations to deliver tangible and evident reductions.

How does this affect facility managers?

Of course, the life of the FM is always influenced by outside forces. In this case, the CCC’s recommendation and the UK’s promise means that net zero carbon buildings are going to be everybody’s problem from here on out.

What is a net zero carbon building?

The UK Green Building Council has recently released their new framework for the UK property and construction sector; whereby both new and old buildings will be transitioned to become net zero carbon buildings by the proposed date of 2050.

This framework was crafted over six months of massive industry engagement, involving over 180 industry experts and has been endorsed by 13 trade associations and industry bodies.

This framework lays out the network of consistent principles and metrics that can be integrated into tools, policies and practices. The aim is to achieve consensus in the industry when it comes to the approach to decarbonising buildings.

It will also provide guidance to developers, owners and occupiers targeting net zero carbon buildings, giving them key principles and outlining how to measure and record all evidence.

What are the two approaches in the framework?

  1. “Net zero carbon – construction: The embodied emissions associated with products and construction should be measured, reduced and offset to achieve net zero carbon.”
  2. “Net zero carbon – operational energy: The energy used by the building in operation should be reduced and where possible any demand met through renewable energy. Any remaining emissions from operation energy use should be offset to achieve net zero carbon.”

Why is the building sector so important to climate change?

The first and most obvious point to make is that the building sector counts for about 30% of global emissions. The International Energy Agency has estimated that the current global building stock is 223 billion square metres; a figure which will likely double by 2050. In order to reach the target by 2050, renovations will need to occur at a rate of over three per cent every year, all the while accelerating. This is a monumental task which needs the immediate attention of all people – not just FM’s.

So where do you start?

We are all facing a long uphill battle. FMs, in particular, are going to be under huge pressure to renovate and transition to net zero carbon buildings as soon as possible. However, the CCC has kindly presented a list of practical suggestions to help people reduce carbon footprints.

  • Switch to low-carbon heating and keep your thermostat to 19℃
  • Improve your home insulation
  • Eat less beef, lamb and dairy
  • Dispose of waste more efficiently
  • Reduce food waste
  • Upgrade to electric vehicles
  • Walk, cycle and use public transport rather than driving
  • Choose appliances with high energy efficiency ratings
  • Choose LED lightbulbs
  • Set the water temperatures in heating systems no higher than 55℃
  • Use only peat-free compost
  • Choose quality products which last longer
  • Share or rent rather than buying items which you do not use frequently

The crux of the matter

The UK – and the world at large – is in for a massive shakeup. Life is about to get interesting. At a time like this, the best thing you can do is have a partner like Voltix Services. We offer complete facility maintenance, statutory compliance and facility audits. As the CCC’s recommendations become more emphatically implemented, Voltix Services will be lending our expertise wherever we can, so that we can achieve the universal goal of saving this planet.