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Construction industry needs COP27 to deliver on tackling climate crisis

World leaders are meeting for COP27 in Egypt, against a backdrop of stalling policies to tackle the climate emergency.

The UK experienced record temperatures this year and globally countries on the frontline of the climate emergency, like Pakistan, suffered extreme flooding. These are the stark realities that face COP27 delegates this month.

Last year COP26 in Glasgow had marked some progress with commitments to phase out coal power and reverse deforestation, for example. It was agreed climate action must accelerate to keep the Paris commitment on track to meet the 1.5 – 2 degrees target.

But amid a global cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine, progress has slowed since last year. Reports indicate current policies mean we are likely to see 2.7 degrees rise in global temperature.

Within our network in the sustainable construction industry there remains a growing commitment from contractors and customers to use low-carbon solutions in the supply chain. But equally it is clear there is frustration at the lack of improved policy to ensure significant mainstream action and progress, at the scale required. The shortfall of policy encompasses both the construction of buildings and those relating to existing properties.

As a result, we still need to see a big cultural shift to achieve the 2050 carbon neutral target in the UK. This will require the introduction of policy change at government and local authority level to accelerate the rate of improvements. We need to educate and change how our sector thinks and behaves and while a large part of this is cultural, improving planning policies will ultimately enforce positive change.

In construction this means delivering sustainable solutions at each stage of a development. It needs buy-in from developers and architects working in conjunction with planners and policy makers. This required big shift could be directed at COP27. But even if world leaders fall short the opportunity remains for the construction industry to lead by example and make big positive changes.

The positive remains that there is so much scope to achieve rapid progress in the construction industry. But there is no time to lose. A lot of the technology exists and is improving all the time. At the Sheehan Group we experience first-hand the big difference using the circular driven economy has in reducing the impact on the environment. Education and training are key to change. Collaborations and sharing best practice should also be encouraged.

Historically long-term policy has often been negatively impacted by short-termism. But in this case the shorter-term issues surrounding the cost of living can be supported by many parts of a long-term strategy that addresses the climate emergency. For example, energy security strategies can deliver sustainable long-term growth and energy efficiency and financial savings for tenants of properties.

Self-interest needs to be put aside. COP27 needs a global response and action to protect our planet and communities.