Our Sustainability team works with businesses across the UK and Ireland to plan, design and build the infrastructure needed to reduce their carbon footprint. Made up of individuals who are driven by the green agenda, our people are passionate about sustainability, striving to build a better world for future generations.
Over recent months, we've caught up with some of the rising talent in our sustainability team, those whose passion for a greener future will help businesses reach their net zero goals and tackle the climate change emergency.
And last but not least, we meet Ben Gray, an Assistant Acoustics Consultant who joined our graduate scheme in 2019. Whilst acoustics may not spring to mind when you think of sustainability, Ben looks at the role it can play as part of a wider, holistic solution.
Where do you think the biggest opportunities lie in the quest for NZC?
Chiefly the switch to renewable electricity and moving big fossil fuel users onto electric power such as transport, heating etc will make a huge impact. As an additional benefit, this will lead to cheaper electricity across the globe, helping to reduce poverty which in turn allows people to be more involved in combatting climate change. I think hydrogen technologies could be an exciting prospect in the short to medium term, being used in domestic gas systems and vehicles as a low carbon alternative to fossil fuels until a full-scale transition to renewable electrical power is possible.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles to overcome to achieve NZC?
Getting everyone in the world to co-operate and do what’s needed, we have the technology but there is a lot of apathy and vested interests that get in the way. Although, it’s not as simple as it sounds with staggering wealth and power inequalities taking away people’s agency and will to do what’s needed whilst greed and the quest for profit actively incentivize people to damage the planet for their own gain. As such combatting climate change, apathy and wealth inequality all go hand in hand.
What would be the one policy you would implement or change in support of NZC?
With the current shakeup of planning policy ongoing it needs to move in a direction that encourages sustainable development over commercial interest, unfortunately I don’t think that’ll happen. Additionally more needs to be done to hold large, multi-national corporations and world governments to account for the damage they do to the planet.
Best case scenario, it is perfectly feasible that we can achieve NZC globally by 2050. Whilst that would take a major shift in global policy and mindset, if everyone in the world woke up tomorrow determined to fight climate change it would be a lot easier. That said, I think it’s important to stress what that mindset needs to be, there’s a tendency to think that a ‘quick fix’ will solve climate change without any hassle, whilst what is needed is hard work and a wholesale change to how we do things.
On the other hand, if we don’t get a grip on the problem or we just let things stand as they are then we could be in real trouble by 2049. If warming is kept unchecked, then we are in real danger from extreme weather affecting food sources and supply lines as well as complete ecosystem collapses that would be devastating for humanity and the planet as a whole. Not only that, but, we run a real risk of getting to a point of no return where no matter what we do, the damage will already be too much for us to survive as a species, at least as we know it. On top of that there’s the widespread social and political upheavals that would result from this, famines, wars, migrant crises, overpopulation, disease from air pollution already causes millions of early deaths globally and this would only increase along with the decimation of much of the world's food supplies. Suffice to say, the damage could be catastrophic and completely change life as we know it, if we even survive it. Hopefully it won’t come to this and I have faith we can avoid it, but we can’t shy away from the potential consequences of inaction.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give a client starting their NZC journey?
To make it the main priority of all developments. The best way to decarbonize the processes they go through is to build net zero carbon infrastructure in from the ground up, it is the most efficient way to do so both from an environmental and fiscally sound perspective.
Your carbon footprint might be complex, but your journey to net zero doesn’t have to be. Alex Mozaffari, Director for Sustainability looks at some of the challenges businesses face as they strive to achieve net zero carbon and how they can set up for success by getting the right strategy in place.
Conall Boland leads our sustainability team in Ireland, where infrastructure projects in the water, transportation and energy sectors are key activities. He sees big challenges and opportunities for the infrastructure sector in meeting the 2050 carbon reduction targets.
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