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Net Zero Strategy: what it means for construction employers

The UK Government has published its Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener in advance of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

The Strategy sets out policies and proposals for getting rid of fossil fuels like oil and gas – known as decarbonisation – from the whole UK economy. This is to meet a legal obligation to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050 in England and Wales (Scotland aims to reach that target by 2045). Net zero means not adding to the sum total of carbon emissions in the atmosphere and is seen as a big part of the fight against climate change.

The Heat and Buildings Strategy has also been published, which provides more detail on decarbonising homes. Both strategies reference CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero report, published earlier this year.

Key take-outs

The Heat and Buildings Strategy sets a goal to decarbonise the heat and buildings sector by between 47% to 62% by 2035. New funding of £3.9 billion has been pledged for this, which will support ambitions to phase out the installation of natural gas boilers beyond 2035. This includes a new £450 million Boiler Upgrade Scheme which will provide £5,000 grants to households to help install heat pumps or other low carbon heating systems.

It includes support and funding to help fuel-poor homes improve their energy efficiency ratings and provides additional funding to the Home Upgrade Grant and the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund of £1.75 billion.

The Net Zero Strategy aims to deliver on the Government’s levelling-up agenda and support 240,000 skilled green jobs by 2035, concentrated on areas of the UK where investment is needed most.

What it means for construction employers

The strategies show that construction employers are going to play a big role in helping the UK reach net zero.

The strategies provide certainty and stability for businesses by setting clear and timely targets and standards. They will encourage many, such as natural gas engineers and electricians, to retrain specialise in smarter, greener and cleaner technologies.

These strategies are a start, but more detail will follow in the coming months. For England, the Green Jobs Taskforce action plan will be published in spring and is likely to put a lot more flesh on the bones for what this all means for construction skills.

Our Chief Executive’s view

Tim Balcon, Chief Executive of CITB, said: “It is good news that the UK Government has outlined its net zero strategy and plan for heat and buildings this week. Reaching net zero carbon emissions is going to take a huge effort by the whole country and these strategies help drive that forward.

“CITB has a clear role to play in being part of the solution in terms of construction skills. We need to make sure that all learners have the appropriate and necessary level of understanding of climate change and how their skills contribute to net zero. This knowledge has to be a fundamental part of all our skills and knowledge in the construction sector.

“We look forward to working with industry and government to make these strategies a success.”