Profession must speed up carbon reduction efforts, report warns

Effects could be of a ‘magnitude never before faced by humanity’, causing financial devastation, mass displacement of people and half the global growing area for wheat and maize to be lost.

Across the world it accounts for 40 per cent of all carbon emissions, and currently stands at a record high level.

Embodied carbon – attributable to activities such as extraction, preparation and transportation of construction materials – fell by only 4 per cent between 2018 and 2022, according to UKGBC calculations.

Elsewhere this week, a sustainability report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that 43 per cent of construction professionals across the world do not measure embodied carbon on their projects.


Overall carbon emissions in the sector fell by 13 per cent, though, but still missed the target of 19 per cent between 2018 and 2021.

Embodied carbon fell by only 4 per cent between 2018 and 2022

‘The timeline to meet net zero cannot extend. We must now reduce emissions twice as fast as we have been to get back on track. The later we leave it, the harder it will be and the greater the missed opportunities for tackling interconnected nature and social crises.’

The report comes as world leaders meet at COP 28 in Dubai to discuss future agreements for carbon reduction policy.

This was despite the drop in construction activity in 2020 caused by the Covid pandemic.

The built environment, including property and construction, is the largest source of climate emissions in the UK economy after surface transport.

To meet national net-zero aims, the built environment sector in the UK needed to reduce embodied carbon emissions by 17 per cent in the same period, the UKGBC said in its report.

According to the AJ’s sister title Construction News, the UKGBC’s assessment of targets, laid out in a 2021 report called the Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap, found that the sector needs to decarbonise twice as fast as at present by 2025.

UKGBC chief executive Smith Mordak said: ‘Unprecedented global events have shaped the story of the built environment over the past four years but, despite forced emissions reductions during the pandemic, this progress report makes one thing clear: our industry is not moving fast enough.

The organisation called for the government to reverse its recent watering down of net-zero plans to incentivise widespread home retrofit works and give climate issues priority in the planning system.

Also launched at COP 28 this week was a major report called Global Tipping Points, on which more than 200 researchers worked. It found that five risky environmental thresholds are imminently at risk of being crossed and three more could be crossed in the 2030s as the world exceeds 1.5 degrees of warming.