We examine how the construction sector can get closer to the 2050 net zero emissions goal.

As the UK targets net zero emissions by 2050, the construction sector is increasingly in the spotlight as a contributor to carbon emissions in the UK. There is growing pressure on the industry to do its bit, and there are a variety of opportunities for companies and industry regulators to lower emission levels, and begin to move towards the 2050 net zero goal.

Construction has a large impact on emission levels worldwide, contributing 39% to all carbon emissions. The materials used in construction are a principal emitter, with the production of cement and concrete particularly carbon intensive. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.

The World Green Building Council’s ‘Bringing embodied carbon upfrontreport highlights the need for a 40% cut in embodied carbon emissions by 2030, and an ultimate goal of net zero embodied emissions by 2050 for construction. Embodied emissions include the energy consumed in the acquisition of raw materials, their processing, manufacturing, transportation to site, and construction.

To achieve this goal, more sustainable materials need to be introduced into the construction process. Opportunities for off-site manufacturing and reduced transportation of materials need to explored quickly to reduce carbon emissions and contribute towards a more sustainable future for construction.

However, in an industry that is dominated by tight margins, it remains to be seen who will foot the bill for bringing forward innovations in the sector that will accelerate the necessary journey to net zero.

We recently conducted research on the public’s attitudes to net zero emissions, which showed that although the public is supportive of the move to net zero, they are unwilling to pay more through tax increases or increased prices. That leaves the fundamental question of who is ultimately responsible for getting us to our net zero target and how can we ensure that funding is in place to ensure we achieve it.