Recently, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) published a briefing paper that highlights what it believes to be the ‘Day 1’ priorities for a new UK parliament.

Showcasing the key points of the paper in a webinar. The webinar featured speakers from across the climate, energy, and construction sectors.

Despite focusing on the next parliament, speakers highlighted that time is of the essence. It’s not too late to create change before the General Election.

 

Seven key ‘Day 1’ priorities in debate during the session:

  1. Deliver a public engagement strategy emphasising the benefits of the net zero transition

ICE  highlighted that, so far, the UK’s net zero progress has had very little impact on the public’s day to day life. However, the remaining 65% emission reduction needed by 2035 cannot be delivered without public input and choice.

ICE polling shows the public do want to make changes. However, they need more engagement, support and incentives, including access to impartial trustworthy information.

Therefore, it argues the Government needs to establish a responsibility for delivering net zero public engagement and education which emphasises the benefits of a net zero transition.

 

  1. Establish an Urban Tram Delivery System

A new tram system will help to reduce emissions from surface transport. The highest contributor to UK emissions in 2022 at 23%, said ICE.

ICE recognise that many want to switch to cleaner modes of transport, however, only 40% of people can reach large UK cities by public transport in 30 minutes.

Therefore better public transport, such as an urban tram system, will significantly contribute to the government’s ambition to level up outside the South East. This will unlock further economic growth and helping to achieve net zero.

 

  1. Incentivise increased public transport usage and active travel

Similarly, incentivising increased public transport use would help to reduce emissions from surface transport.

Fare schemes to incentivise public transport use are already widely implemented in the UK. Whilst other European governments are experimenting with fare caps to incentivise public transport use, including Germany and France’s €49 monthly travel-pass schemes.

ICE argues that by implementing fare and regulatory reform, the next UK Government would more successfully decarbonise and reduce emissions from surface transport.

 

  1. Accelerate freight decarbonisation through targeted electrification of key rail sectors

ICE states that UK road freight emissions have increased by 4% since 2019, with van traffic increasing more than any vehicle type.

If the next Government commits to rail freight network investment of around £9–12bn, this could cut HGV emissions by 40% while generating £75– 91bn in wider social and economic benefits.

 

  1. Introduce half-hour metering and charging for domestic energy

The energy sector needs to meet increased electricity demand of around 50% by 2035. ICE says demand-side measures are essential to meet increased demand.

If delivered at scale by 2030, half-hour metering can optimise the balance of energy supply and demand to dynamically shift demand to match renewable supply.

 

  1. Ensure sufficient funding to reduce energy demand in social housing

Heating buildings accounts for almost a quarter of fossil fuel demand in the UK and contributes to 20% of emissions. With 17% of housing stock socially rented, investment in social housing is needed to ensure an affordable, just, and fair net zero transition.

ICE believes the government should commit funding and set the trajectory for a longer-term social housing retrofit programme. This would kick-start the market and enable efficient delivery and scale-up.

 

  1. Accelerate sustainable construction practices

ICE reports the construction industry was responsible for 14% of emissions in 2022. Retrofitting the UK’s housing stock will mean carbon emissions will rise by 2030, then decline towards 2050.

However, more sustainable construction practices will help mitigate the impact and begin reducing emissions in other sectors by 2030.

 

 

It’s clear from the discussion that the battle to reach net zero needs quick action. Panelists agreed that we mustn’t wait for a General Election to continue delivering impactful policies and projects. We must push forward and continue to decarbonise the UK at pace.

Bringing business and communities together will be key to doing this. And, by engaging with people from the outset, these modest proposals could make a huge impact in the short-term.