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Mon, 6 April 2020

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Creating a 'Ministry of Carbon' would drive the UK toward a low carbon future

Creating a 'Ministry of Carbon' would drive the UK toward a low carbon future

National Federation of Builders

4 min read Member content

Top construction industry leaders have called on Government to act immediately to address how the sector – which is the largest contributor to UK carbon emissions – can help the UK to meet its 2050 Zero Carbon target.


The National Federation of Builders (NFB) has called for an “open and frank discussion” about the solutions that the building industry can provide to tackle climate change and challenged the Government to establish a ‘Ministry of Carbon’ to drive forward the initiatives needed to reach a low carbon future.

Earlier this week, the NFB Major Contractors Group (MCG) launched its first report, ‘Transforming Construction for a Low Carbon Future’, at the Institution of Civil Engineers in Westminster.

Challenges and opportunities

The Government has an ambitious target for building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. Nowhere is the challenge of climate change more difficult - and the opportunity so large - than in the UK building industry. The UK’s construction industry directly accounts for 10% of the country’s emissions and influences a massive 47% of all emissions through related works.

Speaking at the report’s launch event, Mark Wakeford, Chair of the NFB’s Major Contractors Group, emphasised that the new report was a “call to arms” for his industry.

Mr Wakeford had a stark warning for his fellow construction leaders: “Anyone still operating the same way as they are today in 20 years’ time will be lucky to still be in business.

“There are no excuses: Government, contractors, the supply chain, manufacturers, designers and the trades must all embrace the challenge now.”

It will be impossible to reach the UK’s world-leading target of net zero emissions of global warming gases by 2050 if industry continues to operate in the same way, warns the NFB report.

The NFB’s Chairman, Nick Sangwin, said the new report was “designed to galvanise the sector into action.”

The building industry had to “see the opportunities and to lead the way towards zero carbon by 2050,” he stated.

“The time is now to grasp the nettle and tackle the issue of carbon reduction.

“This will not only allow us to give back to our communities, something that I have always been passionate about, but also to future generations and the planet as a whole.”

While the report warns against the risks of not acting, it also spells out the huge opportunities that exist across the sector, including domestic, industrial, flood defence, the power sector and transport.

Ann Bentley, Global Board Director at construction consultancy firm Rider Levett Bucknall, gave an impassioned speech on the business case for change: “If we don’t make the right choices, we will become unemployable.

“We will suffer the consequences – both as businesses and the human race.”

She stated that clients were also committed to the climate change agenda, adding “if we can provide the clients with data to make realistic choices, that will gain a lot of momentum.”

The report homes in on those companies that are willing to commit to transforming their businesses within a generation, arguing that they will be in a position to build their prosperity in new markets.

‘Ministry of Carbon’

While Mark Wakeford said it was “critical that those within the construction sector are stepping forward and implementing a real step-change in the way they do business,” he also had bold asks for Government.

The report argues that domestic housing will require a government spend of £15 billion each year to reduce carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, industrial property and infrastructure requires £5-10 billion a year to support a net-zero future.

The NFB’s MCG have the headline-grabbing ask for a ‘Ministry of Carbon’ to direct the UK’s activities to reduce its dependence on carbon. Mr Wakeford confirmed that he hoped this new Department would be led by a dedicated Minister for Carbon, who would have a seat at the Cabinet table.

The NFB’s MCG also wants Ministers to work with Governments from around the world to price carbon so that there is a uniform cost of carbon content within products and services. The NFB recommends establishing a Carbon Reduction Certification Scheme, for use in the domestic and small commercial sector, which could independently verify progress on carbon reduction.

The NFB is one of the UK’s longest standing trade bodies, with members ranging from the sole trader to construction companies with a turnover of over £500 million. As such, the report also has recommendations for the NFB itself: ‘To educate all stakeholders regarding the challenges, urgency and solutions to reduce carbon dependency’ - further cementing their point that everyone has a role to play in the ‘war on carbon’.

Read the full report HERE. 

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