The Net Zero Energy Security and Growth Plan is a mandated response to last year’s High Court ruling, which deemed the 2021 Net
Zero Strategy as unlawful due to a breach of the Climate Change Act. The response includes a number of significant policy announcements
related to the power and infrastructure industries, in addition to those in the Spring Budget earlier this month.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget includes a range of measures intended to stimulate economic growth and deliver stability, under four
pillars: Enterprise, Employment, Education and Everywhere. For the energy and infrastructure industry, key takeaways include a recommitment
to Levelling Up, nearly a billion in funding for investment zones in England and a significant boost of £20 billion pledged for carbon capture.

Yesterday saw a significant reshuffle in the Government. Number 10 has stated its purpose has been to ensure the delivery of the Prime Minister’s five priorities: to halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats.


Chief among these departmental changes has been the creation of the new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which will be led by former Business Secretary, Grant Shapps MP. In Shapps’ own words, his focus will be “securing our long-term energy supply, bringing down bills and thereby helping to halve inflation.”


Other changes include:


A dedicated Department for Science, Innovation and Technology will drive innovation to deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy.


A combined Department for Business and Trade to support growth by backing British businesses at home and abroad, promoting investment and championing free trade.


A re-focused Department for Culture, Media and Sport (losing the ‘Digital’ element to its name) will recognise the importance of these industries to the economy and build on the UK’s position as a global leader in the creative arts.

This report explores the main recommendations and what they mean for the infrastructure, energy, and construction sectors. Although not all of Skidmore’s recommendations may be taken forward, the considerable evidence he has gathered along with his personal pedigree will likely elevate the proposals up the political agenda.

The aviation sector has a critical role to play in delivering decarbonisation through modernisation.

We spoke to Lara Young, Group Climate Change Director at Costain and Chair of the Institute of Civil Engineers’ Carbon Champion Review Panel, to understand the steps the industry is taking to drive to Net Zero by 2050.

In our new series, The Hardest Jobs in Net Zero, we explore the oxymorons of infrastructure – those roles that, on the surface, seem to be anything but sustainable.

The global built environment is responsible for 40% of carbon emissions and 50% of extracted materials. If the UK is to meet its target of reaching net zero by 2050, it is critical that construction is decarbonised.

“No organisation can achieve net zero on its own”, begins Lara. “A huge part of Costain’s focus is ensuring that we lead by example and enable others to achieve their targets. Realistically, it is only when other organisations achieve their targets that we can achieve ours – which means collaborating across industry is paramount.”

 Walking the talk

After years of growing awareness of the need to accelerate decarbonisation, for Lara, the time for delivery is now.

“It is now sink or swim. We either take action or we will cease to exist. We have to follow through on that initial enthusiasm with action, doing what we said we were going to do. This is true for every organisation.

“Awareness of the topic has grown since 2018/19. The build up to COP26 saw a huge amount of pressure to enshrine commitments. COP26 was a good accelerator for organisations adopting targets, though it is now imperative that they are delivered upon.”

 Cutting through the noise

While there is ambition to deliver credible change across infrastructure, Lara admits that there is confusion about what meaningful change looks like.

“The sheer amount of confusion and intangibility around the topic is one of the challenges we face. The difficulty is in cutting through the noise around net zero and understanding what it actually means in real life.

“However, there is a huge amount of ambition now, which is brilliant. There is a genuine willingness to do the right thing and engagement with the topic. But not necessarily the maturity to understand exactly what is needed to be done.”

 Risk taking and innovation

Technological innovation is a key component of the drive to decarbonise work practices in construction. Lara believes it is crucial that those new technologies are applied in the right way once they have passed the theoretical design period.

“The industry is really great at trialling and testing new technologies, however we struggle to industrialise that innovation once it moves past the point of being tested and trialled. I think governance and policy could help make that happen more quickly and at scale.

“However, having the right technology is not the be all and end all, it needs to be used to drive tangible change. Using technology and innovation in the most effective manner to achieve the outcomes we need is key to achieving net zero.”

 Moment of clarity

There is much to be hopeful for on the horizon. From her experience with clients, Lara believes that the industry is fast approaching a moment of realisation, in acknowledging that no-one has all the answers.

“We do need to become comfortable in admitting that we only know part of the solution. There is this balance between wanting to do the right thing, but also trying to respond to pressure to equate scale with success. It is often these grandiose projects and pledges that may be harming the route to delivering credible and meaningful change.

“My role seeks to ensure that we can cut through the noise to ensure we do not get distracted with ‘nice to do’ projects, which may be great project but not the most relevant at this point in time. I think the priority for most projects is that while there is a genuine desire for change, there is uncertainty about what is needed and how best to go about this.”

Leading by example

It is clear that a collaborative effort is needed to deliver net zero in construction. Not simply by promoting best practice but leading that change and acting on commitments.

“If we are expecting others to do the same, we have to lead by example. We are more mature than many and we can support our supply chain on the journey to net zero. There are also niche areas where other partners will be more informed than us and we can learn from their experience.

“By 2023, we will provide a low carbon option on every project as a standard.  Over time, this will ensure we are driving behaviour change with our customers and flagging opportunities to make an impact.”

Clear communication

Simplicity and clarity are the watchwords for any organisation approaching messaging on sustainability goals. Ensuring any claims are backed up by credible, deliverable results is critical, as Lara explains.

“We should all be striving to keep our language accessible to everyone, ensuring everyone understands the role they will play in helping their organisation to achieve net zero.

Organisations should be celebrating success and demonstrating the progress they are making in delivering their decarbonisation commitments.”

Construction has demonstrated the innovative streak to trial radical technologies required to decarbonise. It is critical to match this with the will to implement those technologies to bring about the required revolution.

More than this, the innovative fervour must be accompanied by a readiness to admit where gaps in knowledge are and a zeal to build on them, to construct a clear path to decarbonisation.

Find out more about Lara and the team’s efforts to achieve net zero here.

And stay tuned to Copper’s channels for more articles in our search for The Hardest Jobs in Net Zero.

Just a couple of months have passed since Kwasi Kwarteng delivered the now infamous mini budget and Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement signalled a radical departure from that short-lived ideology.

Logistics makes up the backbone of the UK economy. Without the organised transport of goods, equipment, and produce, our way of living would be simply impossible.

The ‘stakeholder handshake’, building a compelling story and a culture where you want (to want) to go beyond tick box engagement – what lessons can we learn about stakeholder engagement from industry leading figures.

Martin McCrink, Managing Partner at Copper interviewed two leaders from National Highways’ Complex Infrastructure Programme – Chris Taylor (Director) and Sarah Walker (Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Communications). We’ve set out some highlights.

All too often, stakeholder engagement and communications is seen as a ‘task’, a box to be ticked or a mechanism to show a board or client that one must be taking the public and stakeholders seriously, because there is a team that ‘manages’ the public. Or, signing off a communications strategy document at the start of a project and then expecting everything to be better simply because ‘a process’ was in place. These things are unlikely to benefit a project, a team, the client or customer unless stakeholder engagement is seen as a core tenet of project development. These are  often erroneous attempts to shortcut the thinking that’s needed.

Each company, board and project has a decision to make – is stakeholder engagement a chore or an opportunity?

To help examine this, Copper sat down with Chris Taylor and Sarah Walker from National Highways to talk about the benefits for the planning, construction, and ultimately the end use, of our infrastructure and wider built environment. You can watch the interview here.

The stakeholder handshake – lay the foundations to build an engagement strategy

Clients and developers face a common challenge – to articulate the need and justification for a given project or investment. That requires securing buy in from clients, funders, government or elected representatives. This matters because often sooner rather than later we have an ask of stakeholders – for a societal licence to operate or as part of the consenting regime.

Early work is required to understand what stakeholders can gain from a project, be it a primary, secondary or tertiary benefit. What’s important is to weave these benefits into a project’s purpose to create the opportunity for a ‘stakeholder handshake’ – a series of commitments or boundaries you can adhere, to go back to in tougher times and celebrate in easier periods.

With early mutual understanding, you can start to build trust – key principles of a project, show there are lines you won’t cross, benefits you’ll deliver and promises you can show you’ve kept.

Build an audience on your terms to join an already live conversation

Whether project teams like it, or even know it, or not, conversations are happening about infrastructure projects. And within these conversations, a range of views – support, misinformation, opposition – are formed. So how do we manage this?

Firstly, we need to understand and build our audiences. It is tempting to only talk to those who want to talk to a project team – usually with a motive to oppose. But this misses an opportunity to talk to everyone who a project is for, not those already motivated to have a view. This requires a smart communications strategy to engage these audiences, informed by concrete data and insight to understand how audiences consume information.

Secondly, we need to tell compelling narratives which take people with us. We need to bring projects to life to make them accessible, setting out the need, benefits, potential impacts, proposed mitigations, and ultimate opportunities. Without a clear and compelling narrative we create barriers for people to understand the complexity of projects. This creates a vacuum which misinformation and simplistic opposition explanations will fill.

Losing control of the public discourse in this way becomes as real material risk to the consentability or construction programme of projects. Decision makers can only make judgements on what they can see. So if we lose control of a project’s story, we inadvertently cloud the project reality in the minds of our key audiences.

We’ve learnt across our projects that you have to commit to repeating this narrative and keeping people informed because most infrastructure projects, from first concept to commissioning, can be years or even decades. The key audiences may remain the same but the individuals comprising these will change over time – just because you have communicated a vision once doesn’t guarantee it has been heard, understood and will remain unchallenged.

What’s communication got to do with social value?

Unlocking tangible social value is challenging without meaningful public engagement. Projects need to know that their efforts make a difference, but this value also needs to be celebrated and crystalised into a lasting and positive legacy. Communities need to understand projects and know and trust the teams delivering them in the first instance, if the community and social benefit outcomes are going to be of real value to them.

“You’ve got to want (to want) to deliver good engagement”

Project culture is critical. If stakeholder engagement, and therefore regard for stakeholders and the public is a bolt on, you cannot expect a strategy to meaningfully improve a project and for good relationships to form with communities without putting in the work to make it happen. Like with any professional or interpersonal relationship, there needs to be a healthy tension mitigated through reasonable give and take between project teams and their stakeholders. If a project team wants to enjoy the support of stakeholders, you’ve got to want to dig deep, work with those outside a project, and be seen to do so.

What have we learnt?

Both Chris and Sarah expressed the importance of ensuring engagement is embedded into the leadership, structure and culture of a project team. If a strategy is superficial, expect the results of your stakeholder engagement to be so too.