Skanska warns construction could miss emissions targets without better data

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Infrastructure firms could miss legally binding carbon budgets unless there is a better standard of carbon data measuring across the industry.

That’s the warning from Skanska, which is among a group of companies calling for better carbon data measuring to ensure that the infrastructure meets its target of meeting net zero emissions by 2050.

A new report by the Net Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition (NZIIC), of which Skanska is a member, warned that there were “huge variances” in the way that carbon data is measures, managed, and assessed for planning needs across the infrastructure.

The report said that a lack of understanding meant that the true impact of infrastructure projects on carbon emissions was not clear.

The coalition called for a common, industry-wide approach, arguing that it is essential to the availability, quality and transparency of data, underpinning initiatives to achieve net zero by 2050. It is also calling for change to how new assets are designed at feasibility stage.

The report, entitled ‘Is our carbon wallet empty?’ makes four key recommendations:

  • An agreed carbon zero definition that can be clearly assessed
  • Planning framework guidance for carbon assessment in line with the Paris Agreement
  • A shared understanding of the sector share of UK carbon budget
  • A carbon neutral design option for every asset

The report follows an audit of the existing embodied carbon measurement in the infrastructure pipeline. Skanska said a project-by-project approach was necessary in order to obtain a “true picture”, where supply chains are long and complex.

Skanska’s sustainability operations director Chris Hayes, who is also an NZIIC board member, said: “We need to create a common carbon currency that works for everyone, from government and planning authorities to customers, contractors and the supply chain.

“While there is plenty of political and industry commitment to driving down carbon consumption, we lack consistent methods to achieving it. Put simply, the will is there but the tools are not.”

Ruth Finlayson, carbon manager for Skanska and project manager for this coalition report added: “If we cannot quantify our carbon usage, we cannot know the impact on the UK carbon budget. How can individual projects and the wider infrastructure sector plan their journey to net-zero without knowing the proportion of the UK’s budget they should be working to?”

Dominic Burbridge, associate director at the Carbon Trust, said: “Good data underpins good decision making, and good carbon data is essential in understanding how to plan, design, deliver, and operate infrastructure.

“With infrastructure accounting for over 13% of the UK Carbon footprint and directly influencing a further 41%, we must get to a point where we can consistently measure it! Decisions need to be based on common understanding of the carbon impact, and these recommendations point the way. The time for action is now.”

Other members of the Net-Zero Infrastructure Industry Coalition, which was formed in 2019 in response to the UK government’s 2050 net-zero greenhouse gas emissions commitment, include Mott MacDonald, Pinsent Masons, the Carbon Trust, UKCRIC, Leeds City Council, National Grid, and Transport for London.

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