Robust decarbonisation data to track net zero is lacking

A lack of decarbonisation data collected by the construction sector is “limiting” the government’s ability to monitor progress towards carbon net zero, a report has found.

In its annual update, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said insufficient information on construction firms’ decarbonising efforts was “critically” limiting government evaluations of environmental improvement.

The report, which assesses the government’s performance in combatting climate change, encouraged Whitehall to take action to “help the green construction workforce grow” amid fears concerning a lack of skilled workers to carry out essential remediation work.

It comes as the Construction Skills Network highlighted earlier this month that more than a quarter of a million construction workers would be needed by 2026 to keep up with demand.

Highlighting issues with the collection of decarbonisation data in the construction and manufacturing industry, the report authors said: “Availability of data to measure progress in this sector is particularly poor, and critically limits monitoring and evaluation.

“The key indicators show a mixed and incomplete picture in a sector where tracking quantitative progress is still particularly challenging, because of the paucity of good data available and the diversity of the sector.”

The report recommended that the government should review, invest in, and reform its industrial decarbonisation data collection and annual reporting to enable better monitoring.

A shortage of skilled workers was also flagged up as another factor that could limit progress towards achieving net-zero targets.

Although the annual assessment found that installations of heat pumps had increased by 47 per cent in 2021 – possibly due to a post-pandemic boom in construction – the report stated that thousands of skilled construction workers would be needed to fit them.

In particular, it highlighted that there was currently no “available data” on the number of qualified heat-pump installers, insisting that training for this group had to start quickly.

“A lack of skilled workers is already often reported as a constraint in home retrofits, and not adequately addressing these issues will result in bottlenecks for the transition,” the report said.

“Lead times for entering into relevant occupations (either for new entrants or reskilled workers in related professions) means that in many cases training needs to start now for workers to be in place on time,” it added.

The government’s Net Zero strategy states that the industrial emissions in the manufacturing and construction industry should be reduced to 63-76 per cent of 2019 levels by 2035.

Consultations on mechanisms that support early deployment of electrification should be taken up by the government, the paper recommended, as this could be combined with reforms to electricity pricing. It also said that “additional supporting policies” may be needed to ensure the use of hydrogen in manufacturing and construction.

In recent years, more construction firms have switched to electric-powered machinery and vehicles to reduce their carbon footprint. Just this week, Tarmac announced a deal with Renault to order its first electric concrete mixer.

However, the report also stressed that any mechanisms should allow hydrogen and electrification to “compete on a level playing field”.

At this year’s CN Decarbonising Construction conference, industry leaders insisted that contractors needed more robust government guidance to work in greener ways.

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