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Insights How can the construction industry deliver on COP26 commitments?

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26 as it is widely known, took place between 31 October and 12 November 2021. Leaders from around the world came together in the UK to accelerate action towards achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At AtkinsRéalis, our sustainability objectives are aligned with these goals. We recently announced renewed targets for climate action throughout our global business.

By joining the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero global campaign and signing the Business Ambition for 1.5°C commitment, we are demonstrating our purpose to engineer a better future for our planet and generations to come. So how can we come together as an industry to deliver on the commitments outlined at COP26?

The current state of affairs

It is widely acknowledged that we are racing against time to lessen or prevent, the disastrous implications that the rising climate will have on the world.

Scientists have been warning for many years that if temperatures rise by 2 degrees, the impact will be devastating and could trigger a domino effect for climate change.

Rising temperatures pose irreversible risks to people, wildlife, and our environment, as demonstrated in the below infographic from the Australian Climate Council.

image showing the detrimental effects rising temperatures can have on the environment

Countries, businesses, and people therefore all have a social responsibility to make progress in ensuring sustainability initiatives are achieved. The current aims, agreed after the Paris Agreement, are to ensure that the climate, which will unquestionably rise, will not exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This goal is, according to Myles Allen, Professor of Geosystem Science at the University of Oxford, ‘physically, technically, and economically possible’ but only with collaborative efforts.

Global pledges made at COP26

Several pledges were made at COP26, but on a global scale, the following has been agreed upon:

  • To halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030
  • To cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030
  • To end public financing of overseas oil, gas, and coal projects by December 2022
  • To decarbonise South Africa’s coal-intense energy system
  • To phase out and not build or invest in new coal power over the coming years

The Glasgow Climate Pact is the first international agreement to explicitly plan to reduce the use of coal. Critics say that this pledge doesn’t go far enough and that leaders should have pushed to eliminate the most carbon-emitting fossil fuel altogether. Whilst this may be true, the Pact is still a huge step forward in the right direction.

How can the construction industry deliver on these commitments?

The initiative to phase out coal is a significant outcome for the construction industry. By installing infrastructure networks for low carbon vehicles, investing in renewable energy, offsetting emissions, and improving low carbon public transport options, our industry can play a huge part in tackling climate change.

The acceleration of carbon trading was a significant issue for the construction industry considered at COP26. The new agreement will drive demand for low-carbon materials and enable a more centralised carbon trading system.

A credit system will be introduced between nations which will attract high volumes of investment into carbon reduction schemes such as Carbon Capture, Use, and Storage (CCUS) and afforestation.

image of a sign which says there is no planet B

AtkinsRéalis’s commitment to Net Zero Carbon

At AtkinsRéalis , we know that there's no planet B, that's why we have taken significant steps on our sustainability journey in 2021. As signatories to the United Nations Global Compact, we have set high-level goals, including pledging to become Net Zero Carbon by 2030. As part of the Race to Zero, over the coming years we will:

  • streamline our real estate portfolio to minimise the carbon footprint of buildings and facilities,
  • adopt digital communication tools to reduce business travel and initiate behavioural change to lower energy usage,
  • design buildings and infrastructure that are energy efficient through their life cycle in collaboration with clients

Upon signing the climate pledge, we have agreed to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions regularly, to implement decarbonisation strategies through real business changes, renewable energy, and other carbon emission elimination strategies, and finally to neutralise any remaining emissions by offsetting carbon.

Join us at AtkinsRéalis as we accelerate towards Net Zero Carbon

We launched our Vision for Engineering a Sustainable Society with enhanced Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets, including a Routemap to achieve Net Zero Carbon emissions by 2030. To achieve this, however, we are looking for more innovative professionals to join our growing engineering, project management, architectural and commercial teams.

If you are looking for a new, exciting career path that can genuinely help engineer a better future for our planet and its people, we may have an opportunity for you. Browse our available engineering roles today, the planet won’t wait.