Infrastructure Carbon Review could cut UK carbon emissions by 24 million tonnes, Government says

Out-Law News | 27 Nov 2013 | 9:49 am | 2 min. read

A Government-backed initiative could reduce the level of carbon emissions caused by the construction and operation of infrastructure projects by as much as 24 million tonnes by 2050, it has said.

The Infrastructure Carbon Review has been produced jointly by industry and the Government; and its initial signatories include the Highways Agency, Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall and the National Grid. It sets out a series of actions for clients, suppliers and the Government, including commitments to cut the volume of materials used in construction and to use existing resources more efficiently.

"If we want a strong, globally competitive economy we have to invest in efficient infrastructure," said Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord Deighton. "The Government has set out its long-term infrastructure strategy, and we're working with industry to make sure that we deliver cost effective and sustainable projects."

"This agreement means that we could save the UK economy £1.46 billion a year by 2050 which is a vital step forward in carbon and cost reduction. Industry as well as government must continue to drive this work forward so we get the infrastructure that the UK needs to compete in the global race," he said.

The UK has a legally-binding commitment to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Although there are no sector-specific targets, currently infrastructure and related sectors like energy account for around half of the country's total emissions. The Government's new industrial strategy for construction, published earlier this year, targets a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment by 2025.

The report makes the business case for reducing infrastructure emissions as a means of reducing costs; driving innovation and resource efficiency; and providing competitive advantages. It builds on the work of the Infrastructure Cost Review in driving efficiency savings of 15% across public infrastructure projects by 2015, and of the carbon reduction efforts on major projects including the M25 widening and the construction of the Olympic Park.

According to the report, carbon reduction commitments by the industry must be driven by effective leadership within an organisation. Businesses are urged to set carbon reduction as a "core organisational value", backed by transparent, visible reporting against public targets.

The central recommendation of the report is for the Government and industry to make carbon reduction a requirement on all of their infrastructure projects and programmes by 2016. This will require incentivising the supply chain to reduce emissions and embedding carbon reduction into the procurement process, for example by making it a prerequisite for winning work.

"The Infrastructure Carbon Review provides a blueprint for Government as well as major infrastructure owners and their supply-chain to collaborate to deliver significant carbon and efficiency savings in a sector that can help Britain become more competitive globally," said Graham Robinson, an infrastructure expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.

The Green Construction Board, a joint initiative between the Government and industry, plans to hold a cross-industry event in the spring. At this event, those that have endorsed the report will be expected to set out the progress they have made against its commitments.