Actuate's call to action on climate threat


22 September 2021
Julia Evans of BSRIA and Actuate UK

Engineering alliance Actuate UK has issued has issued a stark message to world leaders gathering in Glasgow for COP26, urging them to tackle the climate crisis now “before it is too late”.

The body, which represents eight of the UK’s major engineering services trade bodies, says the construction industry is committed to helping in the fight against global catastrophe – but leaders must have “the courage and vision” to make it happen.

And it has repeated a call from its recent manifesto for the widespread rollout of renewables technology to reduce the carbon impact of buildings across the globe.

Leaders will meet for the UN Climate Change Conference – also known as COP26 – from October 31 to November 12, to discuss how to hit climate change targets, including securing net zero by mid-century and keeping global warming to below 1.5°C

Julia Evans, CEO of BSRIA, a member of Actuate UK leading on its Net Zero policy area, said: “To achieve the demanding net zero reductions they aspire to, it is vital for leaders at this upcoming summit to understand what it takes to turn their vision into a practical reality. 

“Together, we must tackle the climate crisis before it is too late – and that means cooperating and collaborating like never before to find real and practical solutions to reducing the carbon impact of buildings across the world.

“Climate change is no respecter of boundaries and will affect us all if we don’t act now, and those who work across the built environment are ready to play a massive part if they are given the right tools to do so.” 

Fiona Hodgson, CEO of SNIPEF, another leading Actuate UK member, echoed the call for immediate action, saying it was vital for leaders to commit to action now. She added: “There is no doubt that the construction industry has the skills and innovation at its fingertips – we just need those in power to have the courage to make the green revolution a reality and agree to roll out such innovation on a mass scale.

“Without the vision to look ahead and recognise that we need these solutions now, nothing will change and we will plunge our planet even further into crisis, endangering our environment and populations for generations to come.”

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Alan Wilson, managing director of electrotechnical trade association SELECT, said any potential action should follow the net zero pledges contained in the Actuate UK manifesto, which was published earlier this year. He said: “We have already called for efficient heating and cooling in buildings, improved indoor air quality and a fast vehicle charging infrastructure – all things that are within reach and can bring about change if we are bold enough to make them happen. 

“Actuate UK itself is committed to making a difference, with our members pledging to see net zero targets achieved in existing buildings through retrofit activities, and to assist with the uptake of low-carbon technologies across government, industry and operators. 

“In addition, we are committed to demonstrating how carbon emissions from the materials, construction and the use of a building over its entire life, including its demolition and disposal, will comprehensively affect standards, quality, education and training. Such examples can, and should, be followed by others around the globe so we can make a difference together.”

Chris Yates, CEO of the Federation of Environmental Trade Associations, another Actuate UK member, said it was also vital for the industry to make its views known to bring about change. He added: “Climate change isn’t something that’s going to happen in ten or 20 years’ time – it’s real, it’s happening now and we don’t have a second to spare if we are to stop it getting worse.

“All of us who work in the engineering services have a duty to make our voice heard and repeat the message that the technology and techniques that can make a difference to tomorrow are already here and need to be rolled out today.

“Without these voices being heard, and our leaders making real change at COP26, we will just continue to sleepwalk into disaster and leave a legacy that no one will be able to repair.”

Actuate UK