The push to net zero has begun. Whether the deadline set is 2040, 2050 or beyond, corporations, institutions and cities around the world have made the commitment to reach net zero and curb their greenhouse gas emissions once and for all.
Getting there isn’t that simple. Establishing the target is one thing, but it takes decades of planning to meet the goal. And that planning needs to start now, if it hasn’t already.
However, many industries rely on carbon-intensive fuels to operate: construction, mining, agriculture, transportation, and oil & gas just to name a few. Each will have to approach, or achieve, net zero to meet national and global targets in the decades ahead.
Areas of Focus
In the short-term, there are areas where efforts can be focused to make positive strides towards net zero. None are a panacea for achieving net zero targets. However, each will help make positive progress, now, that can begin the decades-long journey to hitting the targets and stopping the devastating impacts of a further changing climate.
Procurement with Valuated Emissions
Curbing the volume of carbon emissions generated in a given construction project first takes valuation. This takes understanding where, and what amount, of emissions are produced at every step of the process: materials production, transport, construction site activities, use of the asset across its expected life cycle, and the recycling/disposal of materials at the end of the asset’s life.
To Replace or Renew?
What is the carbon impact of replacing the asset right now versus the rehabilitation necessary to extend the life of the asset? Yes, cost of either is definitely a factor, but environmental factors such as emissions generation should also be evaluated as part of the push to net zero. With some forms of renewable energy still in their infancy, the most sensible solution, from an environmental impact perspective, could be to rehabilitate the asset now and replace it years later once emissions have been cut from the materials processing and built construction activities.
What is Your Energy Source?
The source of your energy could be the biggest factor impacting an asset’s overall emission footprint. However, if it comes from a non-renewable source, such as fossil fuels or natural gas, is there an opportunity to partially or fully offset the use of this resource? Have you explored on-site options to reduce a carbon-intensive energy footprint, such as rooftop solar, geothermal, energy storage, or waste heat recycling? The grid from which you get your power may be years or decades away from being 100 per cent renewably sourced, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all your power use must be as well.
Over the next few months, along with our Golder colleagues, we will be looking at the industries we serve and understanding how we might achieve net zero in those sectors in time to meet our national goals for net zero. For more information about this information series, please contact Andrew Macklin from our WSP in Canada communications team, and visit our net zero emissions pathways page.