We’re starting to get a measure of the net-zero challenge

Richard Robinson is chief executive of Atkins UK & Europe and deputy co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council

In June, advisory body the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its monitoring framework, a means by which it can measure the UK’s progress towards reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. Closely aligned with the pathways set out in the government’s 2021 Net Zero Strategy, the framework aims to identify as early as possible where changes are needed to stay on track in our journey to meeting targets enshrined in law.

“CLC’s monitoring, measurement and reporting gives the industry an insight into where more action is needed”

The message from the CCC was clear: now is the time for delivery. We know where we need to get to and how we’re going to get there, but we now need to focus on measuring real, on-the-ground progress. 

I appreciate that a programme of painstaking measurement and reporting may not seem the most exciting of announcements in the very noisy net-zero arena – certainly when you place it alongside the unveiling of futuristic technologies such as hydrogen heat networks or electric plant – but it does serve as a reminder that performance data will play a huge part in driving our net-zero transition.

As such, the construction industry should be proud that it was one of the first to recognise the importance of objectively and quantifiably measuring whether we’re doing enough, fast enough, to meet our net-zero obligations.

Building on the framework

When the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) launched its Construct Zero Performance Framework at COP26 climate-change conference last year, we delivered a UK first that started the process of defining and measuring our progress towards net zero – while providing a lens of reality which, I’m sure, has been welcomed by a sector seeking the clarity and confidence needed to inform investment in net-zero skills, technology and innovation.

Thanks to our Performance Framework (which has just given us our third round of data since its launch), we know that the number of trained heat-pump engineers – a key role in the transition away from gas boilers – now stands at more than 3,810. Why is this important? Well, if we keep increasing the number of trained engineers at the current rate, we will have no problem at all in meeting the government’s target of 600,000 heat pumps installed every year in the UK by 2028.

More importantly, perhaps, our latest update also tells us that the number of qualified retrofit coordinators – who can manage domestic retrofits – has risen to 506, but needs to accelerate markedly if the target of 30,000 by 2028 is to be achieved.

And this is the point. The CLC’s monitoring, measurement and reporting, which is very closely aligned with government policy, gives the industry an insight not only into progress made, but also into where more action is needed.

In my new role as deputy co-chair of the CLC, I see the role of the Performance Framework as invaluable when working with government, allowing us to spot gaps and evidence trends to direct our efforts to the areas that maximise impact. 

There is, of course, still much to do as we continue to develop the framework, and we’ll be open in sharing our data and insights with the CCC to help it learn more about our journey, which will include milestones and setbacks along the way. 

But for now, I’m proud that the third report has been launched and I urge you to review the sector’s progress, reflecting on what it means for your own business plans and metrics, and – more importantly – the industry as a whole.

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