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Net Zero challenge and the construction sector’s plan to tackle it

The Green Industrial Revolution has begun

What is the net zero challenge?

The net zero challenge is a target for 100% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. To reach this goal, much change is needed. With a strong plan and implementation, it is an achievable goal. The first and second carbon budgets have been met (2008-12, 2013-17) and we are on track to meet the third (2018-22). We are not on track to meet any following carbon budget targets though. The government’s plan for rebuilding the UK following the COVID pandemic will be crucial, and green decisions should be prioritised in order to achieve net zero. Furthermore, each industry sector must play its part. The government has published its ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution in November 2020. This outlines the path to achieve net zero by 2050.

The ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution

The ten-point plan is the foundation for a Green Industrial Revolution. In essence, the UK plans to lead the Green Industrial Revolution similar to when it led the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago. The plan involves investing in clean technologies and creating and supporting jobs in these industries.

The ten points:

Point 2

Driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen

Point 4

Accelerating the shift to zero-emission vehicles

Point 6

Jet zero and green ships

Point 8

Investing in carbon capture, usage and storage

Point 10

Green finance and innovation

Point 1

Advancing offshore wind

Point 3

Delivering new and advanced nuclear power

Point 5

Green public transport, cycling and walking

Point 7

Greener buildings

Point 9

Protecting our natural environment

Point 7 – Greener buildings

Developing greener buildings could deliver…

Support for around 50,000 jobs in 2030

Around £11bn of private investment in the 2020s.

Savings of 71MtCO2e between 2023 and 2032, or 16% of 2018 UK emissions.


Policy impacts

  • Setting an ambition of 600,000 heat pumps installations per year by 2028.
  • Homes built to the Future Homes Standard will be ‘zero carbon ready’ and have 75–80% lower carbon dioxide emissions than those built to current standards.
  • Green home finance initiatives could help to improve the energy efficiency of around 2.8 million homes, improving around 1.5 million to EPC C standard by 2030.

Target milestones


Set out a Heat and Buildings Strategy


Launch a world-class energy-related products policy framework. A push for products to use less energy, resources, and materials, saving carbon and helping households and businesses to reduce their energy bills with minimum effort.

By 2023

Ensure that the public sector has reduced its direct emissions by 50% compared to a 2017 baseline.

Point 9 – Protecting our natural environment

Protecting our natural environment could deliver…

Up to 20,000 jobs from improving flood defences by 2027.

Up to £5.2bn of investment for flood defences.

Climate and biodiversity benefits from protecting our national landscapes.


Policy impacts

  • Increasing the Green Recovery Challenge Fund to £80m will mean that over 100 nature projects are delivered on the ground over the next two years.
  • New national parks, AONB designations and landscape recovery projects will protect up to an additional 1.5% of natural land in England, contributing to our target of protecting 30% of UK land by 2030.
  • Establishing 10 landscape recovery projects could create the equivalent of well over 30,000 football pitches of wildlife rich habitat.
  • Investment in flood defences will support 2,000 flood schemes across every region of England and will better protect over 336,000 properties from risk of flooding.

Target Milestones


From the end of 2020 we will award the first £40 million in a range of nature projects across England through the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, with a second-round worth up to a further £40m in 2021.


In 2021, we aim to start the process for designating new national parks and AONBs.


Starting in 2021, we will invest £5.2bn in a six-year capital investment programme for flood and coastal defences.


Between 2022 and 2024, we aim to initiate 10 long-term landscape recovery projects.

Construction sector response

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) is seeking industry support to drive delivery of net zero in the built environment in response to the net zero challenge and the ten-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution. It has launched CO2nstruct Zero.

CO2nstruct Zero aims to bring together firms from multiple sectors to drive carbon out of all parts of the construction sector.

The construction industry must come to terms with the impact of the built environment on the climate.

The last year has shown the incredible things that we are capable of when we work together, responding to COVID-19 and keeping our industry working safely and effectively.

We must now bring the same spirit and energy to addressing the climate emergency. If our industry is to thrive, we must proactively address the challenges we face before it is too late.

Andy Mitchell

Co-Chair, Construction Leadership Council

The built environment offers opportunity for real change through direct action but also indirectly. For example, methods of construction (direct) or installing charging ports for electric cars (indirect). There are three areas that are relevant to the construction sector: transport, buildings, and construction activity. The following priorities were based on the Sixth Carbon Budget published by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

Construction sector priorities


  1. Accelerating the shift of the construction workforce to zero-emission vehicles and onsite plant.
  2. Maximising use of modern methods of construction and improved onsite logistics, reducing waste and transport to sites.
  3. Championing developments and infrastructure investments that both enable connectivity with low carbon modes of transport and design to incorporate readiness for zero-emission vehicles.


  1. Work with the government to deliver retrofitting to improve energy efficiency of the existing housing stock.
  2. Scale up industry capability to deliver low carbon heat solutions in buildings, supporting heat pump deployment, trials of hydrogen heating systems and heat networks.
  3. Enhancing the energy performance of new and existing buildings through higher operational energy efficiency standards and better building energy performance monitoring.

Construction activity

  1. Implementing carbon measurement, to support our construction projects in making quantifiable decisions to remove carbon.
  2. Become world leaders in designing out carbon, developing the capability of our designers and construction professionals to develop designs in line with circular economy – reducing embedded and operational carbon, shifting commercial models to incentivise and reward measurable carbon reductions.
  3. Support development of innovative low carbon materials (prioritising concrete and steel), as well as advancing low carbon solutions for manufacturing production processes and distribution.

Construction sector delivery

To deliver these priorities successfully and meet the net zero challenge, the CLC will establish three supporting activities as part of its mission:

  1. We will be focusing delivering impact through the CLC skills activity to develop a net zero supply chain, recognising the changing requirement for skill types and spread across industry, which will build capability and support the creation of high value green jobs.
  2. We will be setting out how the CLC Taskforce bodies can support businesses with client engagement and consumer marketing to educate and shift behaviours to lower carbon options.
  3. We will be actively monitoring and reporting on the sector’s progress on a quarterly basis, publicly and to government – defining the milestones, leading, and lagging indicators to give the leadership an overview of the performance against the priorities. This will include joining the Race to Zero on behalf of the UK construction sector to share our performance.

This is a consolidation effort to bring people together to share collective actions and plans for the construction sector based on the outlined priorities. The CLC will build on their COVID taskforce to:

  • Develop a single overarching programme and action plan to deliver against the CO2nstructZero priorities, to co-ordinate the efforts of partner organisations who are leading individual activities, increasing impact and visibility of those activities and minimising duplication of effort.
  • Set out measurable targets and performance criteria to demonstrate the sector is making progress against the CO2nstructZero priorities and 2050 targets, reporting regularly on these to the CLC members and government, as part of our commitment to join the Race to Zero.
  • Champion the policy change required to maximise the CO2nstructZero impact with the government.
  • Signpost industry towards the action they can take and initiatives they can support which deliver on the CO2nstructZero priorities.
  • Act as the primary conduit for engagement with government to advise on how best to showcase the sector at COP 26.

There is no bigger challenge that our industry faces than the need to decarbonise. We need to pull the whole industry together, letting everyone know what they can do to reduce carbon, while unlocking strategic changes that will set the sector on a new course towards net zero.

Andy Mitchell

Co-Chair, Construction Leadership Council

The UK was the first major economy to set our commitment to eliminate our country’s contribution to climate change into law. But we can only do that by working with the industry to make practical changes to secure a better low-carbon future. I am delighted that, through CO2nstruct Zero, the construction sector is showing the unity and leadership to make this happen and ensure we build back greener.

Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan

Construction Minister

If the construction industry can pull together to make real changes that impact and reduce carbon emissions, and ultimately meet the net zero challenge, they should be highly commended. The landscaping industry should be inspired by these initial efforts and perhaps create its own outline, goals, and action plan for reducing carbon emissions.

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