Infrastructure’s carbon reduction needs to accelerate for net zero

Emissions from UK infrastructure fell by almost a quarter (23%) between 2010 and 2018 according to research by The Carbon Project.

Despite this the research, published on 9 October, found that if the 2050 net zero target is to be achieved, then the rate of reduction of infrastructure carbon must accelerate from 3% to 4.1%. Total infrastructure carbon accounts for 54% (419MtCO2e) of the UK’s consumption-based carbon footprint (773MtCO2e), with the research finding declines in operational and user carbon but a 60% increase in capital carbon.

The energy (37%) and waste (33%) sectors have largely driven reductions so far, with key changes in electricity supply, such as substantial shifts from fossil fuels to renewable energy and a fall of 10% in overall consumption, identified as major, contributing factors.

Dr Jannik Giesekam of The Carbon Project and University of Leeds presented the research and said that following transformations in the energy and waste sectors over the past decade, “even faster transformations” are now needed in transport, water and communications. Giesekam added: “With rising capital carbon emissions and increased stimulus spending on the horizon, our focus must be on ‘building back better’ not just ‘build, build, build’. The recovery from Covid-19 and the upcoming National Infrastructure Strategy present a unique opportunity to invest in the infrastructure that will deliver net zero – it’s crucial we also deliver this infrastructure in a low-carbon way.”