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We must turn strategy into reality fast

Industry comment by Ken Dalton, Group chief executive, Aecom Europe

I welcome the government’s low carbon transition plan. It’s not a case of whether we can make carbon emission reductions, but how quickly and how deeply. So what can Aecom and others do about it? It is my view that companies such as ours can make a huge impact on reducing carbon emissions. There are seven key areas where we need to do more.

Our projects

Our biggest impact on carbon emission reduction and in ensuring that the UK is better equipped to adapt to climate change, is our project work. It is no longer good enough for the industry to deliver projects compliant with regulations.

We need to act as advocates to clients’ solutions that meet their needs, while reducing carbon emissions. This means that project life-cycle emissions need to be considered.

Our own operations

We need to demonstrate our commitment to our employees and clients by “walking the talk”. Many companies, Aecom included, calculate their own carbon footprint. The challenge is how do we ensure that the industry as a whole produces numbers that show our relative performance?

Provide leadership

Companies such as ours have long provided an input to government, to industry and client bodies on climate change and, more generally, sustainability issues. We all need to go up a gear if we are to provide the leadership required to reduce the carbon footprint of future projects by 80%.

Measure and learn from experience

In the past the industry has been slow to learn from past experiences. We have to produce indicators that demonstrate that progress is being made. As a company we invest hugely in training staff. Investment needs to be expanded to the supply chain and industry bodies to promote new and best practice. We also recognise the need to support construction research and education infrastructure to support the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Communicate better

We need to better inform our employees and clients of what we do and what we can do to reduce carbon emissions. Then we need to keep telling them.

Business planning

The low-carbon economy will become a reality whether as a result of climate change agreements or to ensure greater security of energy supplies. As such we need to continue to ensure that our business planning will provide services that fit future needs.

To do this, climate change and other sustainability issues need to be even more embedded in our DNA in how we think about and plan our future.

Government

Politicians need to understand that regulations, carbon pricing and other instruments they identify in their strategies have to be rolled out effectively. The strategies are fine, it is the attention to detail that tends to be lacking. Government needs to listen to industry.

So, to summarise, the 80% target is hugely demanding, but achievable. We want to work with others in the industry and the supply chain to get there. It’s not a case of whether government, industry or clients take the lead, but how we can all contribute.

As the Copenhagen Communique (www.copehagencommunique.com) from the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change says: “The problem of climate change is solvable… the one thing we do not have is time. Delay is not an option.”

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