AECOM’s chief executive for Europe, Ken Dalton, believes the construction industry has an opportunity to grasp the initiative on climate change following the COP15 talks in Copenhagen.

Referring to the progress made at the Copenhagen talks, Ken today said: “Many people would like to have seen something a lot more coming out of Copenhagen than simply the ‘recognition’ of the non-binding Copenhagen Accord, but realistically to achieve more was always going to be a big ask.

Having adopted a leadership approach in this area, the UK already has hugely demanding carbon emission targets which would have been further extended had a firm agreement come out of Copenhagen.

Even in the absence of a new treaty, these targets, if properly implemented through Government policies, offer the construction industry a huge opportunity to step up to the mark and make a difference. AECOM is committed to continuing to advocate carbon emissions reduction to Government and our clients — this is such an important issue that the industry can’t afford to be passive in its response.”

In summarising where we go following Copenhagen, Ken outlined a number of key points:

  • A strong global agreement with strong and enforceable targets is still necessary, and we must all push for this; however, we will not maximise carbon emissions reduction without a change of mindset which will see consideration of climate issues embedded in our business approach
  • In the absence of a global carbon-emissions reduction target and strong action to enforce those targets in both the developed and developing world, the need for and associated costs of climate adaptation measures increases; at the same time a failure to mitigate carbon emissions makes the least desirable solution — geo-engineering — more likely to be necessary, with all its attendant uncertainties and impacts
  • Allowing construction to become part of the solution to carbon emissions reduction, particularly with the refurbishment of existing buildings, would be a real win as it would reduce carbon emissions, reduce end-user energy bills, and improve energy security, whilst stimulating the construction industry at a challenging time

“There is unfortunately a clash between the physics and politics of climate change,” added Ken. “The physics say that we need to take radical steps to reduce global carbon emissions now. The politics say that short-term self-interest will sometimes get in the way of what we all know has to be done.”