Carbon Net Zero – UK Construction Reacts To Announcements

Carbon Net Zero

The UK Construction Industry responds to a carbon net-zero shake up from the government.

As a managed service provider in the equipment and plant hire industry, one of our primary concerns is to navigate the evolving landscape of government policies and industry dynamics.

The recent announcement by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak regarding the UK’s net zero goals has left us with mixed feelings and raised several crucial questions about its impact on our industry.

The prime minister’s speech, initially scheduled for Friday, was hastily moved up to Wednesday evening due to advanced news leaks. The core message of the speech aligned with what had been reported in the pressβ€”a delay in various net zero deadlines and a shift in the approach to achieving carbon neutrality.

While some lobby groups and vested interests howled in protest, Sunak’s intention appears to be rooted in relieving substantial financial burdens that were about to burden the public. Notably, the expansion of London’s ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) wasn’t mentioned in the speech but provides important context.

Under the revised plans, the government aims to:

  • Delay the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by five years, pushing it to 2035.
  • Extend the deadline for installing oil and LPG boilers and new coal heating for off-gas-grid homes to 2035, instead of the previously planned phase-out from 2026.
  • Abandon policies that mandated landlords to upgrade the energy efficiency of their properties.

The prime minister emphasized the need for a balanced approach that incentivises innovation in businesses while avoiding imposing excessive costs on families, especially during a time when alternative technologies can be expensive and impractical for all homes.

Now, let’s explore how these developments are perceived within our industry:

Industry Reaction:

Construction Plant-Hire Association (CPA) Perspective:
Chris Cassley, the policy manager of CPA, expressed concern about the prime minister’s announcement. He highlighted the ambiguity it introduces to the construction equipment sector’s efforts to transition away from diesel and toward alternative fuels. CPA members seek clarity and consistency in government policy to facilitate investment decisions and the development of diesel-free technologies in construction plant.

Construction Equipment Association (CEA) Perspective:
Suneeta Johal, Chief Executive of CEA, underlined the frustration within the construction equipment sector. Despite substantial investments and progress in embracing alternative fuels and electric machinery, shifting policy stances create uncertainty, hindering long-term planning and green innovation.

UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) Perspective:
Simon McWhirter, Deputy Chief Executive of UKGBC, expressed anger and frustration at the policy shift. He emphasized that delaying green policies only accelerates their future implementation, increasing costs for households and businesses. McWhirter called for a focus on insulating homes to bring down costs for households, highlighting the need for a national strategy to upgrade all homes and buildings.

Logistics UK Perspective:
David Wells, CEO of Logistics UK, stressed the importance of progress in investment and policies necessary for the logistics sector to achieve net zero. Delaying decarbonisation deadlines without providing necessary details creates uncertainty and discourages private investment, potentially affecting the UK’s supply chain and economy.

Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Perspective:
Eddie Tuttle, Policy Director of CIOB, expressed disappointment at the scaling back of energy efficiency targets. He emphasised the importance of decarbonising homes and the built environment, suggesting that government support for retrofitting and energy efficiency should be a priority.

Wates Sustainability Director Perspective:
Bekir Andrews, Sustainability Director at Wates, argued that the government should concentrate on decarbonising the built environment. He highlighted the significant role of commercial and public-owned buildings in emissions and urged for policies that provide clarity and stability to drive investments in sustainable solutions.

Dissenting Opinion – Leaders Romans Group:
Michael Cook, Group Managing Director of Leaders Romans Group, welcomed the government’s decision to reverse certain policies, particularly those that could financially burden homeowners and landlords. He stressed that reducing capital outlay during challenging times benefits everyone.

In conclusion, the recent government announcement has left our industry in a state of uncertainty and raised concerns about the path to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. While some appreciate the effort to relieve financial pressures, others stress the importance of clear and consistent policies to drive innovation and sustainable practices within the construction equipment and plant hire sector. Balancing the transition to a greener future with economic realities remains a significant challenge that requires ongoing dialogue and collaboration between industry stakeholders and policymakers.