A month on from COP28

Dr Mike Cook, Seratech's Chairman, looks back at the gains that were made and the opportunities that lie ahead.

By Dr Mike Cook

1/24/20242 min read

COP28's headline-grabbing announcement which 'recognises the need to phase down fossil-fuel use in all nations' is a positive and it is tied in with a range of measures in a 'global stocktake'. Though it remains to be seen if all nations take action to comply.

Yet, having a time and place where most nations, large and small, congregate around the global climate crisis, is crucial. We need to use these opportunities, when the world is focussing on the climate crisis, to be heard and to demonstrate the construction industry’s ability to support governments – when they introduce net-zero focussed policies, they need to know that the industry will be ready to respond with action.

Of great importance for the construction industry was the agreement announced between UK, USA, Canada and Germany (as members of the Industrial Deep Decarbonisation Initiative (IDDI)). They pledged to adopt timebound commitments to procure low-emission steel, cement and concrete and/or set emissions reduction thresholds for whole project life cycle assessments to achieve net zero emissions in public buildings and/or infrastructure. These four governments also committed to support the development of harmonised emission accounting standards.

Governments must recognise that low-emission construction materials are an essential tool to achieve global decarbonisation.

On a wider front, the Buildings Breakthrough agenda launched at COP28 has been supported by 27 countries who will work together to unlock action in the buildings sector under the goal statement “near-zero emission and resilient buildings are the new normal by 2030”.

These are important steps for the construction industry that will help us realise our stated net-zero targets. Governments must recognise that low-emission construction materials are an essential tool to achieve global decarbonisation. They can demonstrate some leadership through the procurement of new low-carbon infrastructure that will grow the market for low-carbon construction materials, as well as introducing legislation and incentivisation that encourages the industry to invest in change.

Looking forward, there is further good news following on the heels of COP28. In March 2024 there will be a Buildings and Climate Forum in Paris, organised by the United Nations Environment Programme and France, where governments will address the challenges and opportunities afforded by the buildings and construction sector.

Whilst the achievements of COP28 will not satisfy the demands of many and the forwards steps are too small and too slow, some progress was made. Recognising the importance of the construction industry in helping achieve net-zero whilst being able to continue providing essential infrastructure is vital – and it is beginning to happen. Reason enough to be cheerful?