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Ideas on what can be done about climate change

If you didn’t see the news last week, where have you been?

You missed the fact that the world spent the whole of the last year breaching the 1.5 degrees Centigrade warming limit.

Or as the headline on the BBC website put it: “For the first time, global warming has exceeded 1.5C across an entire year, according to the EU's climate service”.

The report goes on the say that whilst this doesn’t break the target from the Paris Climate Change Agreement from 2015, it does bring us closer to doing so in the long-term.

Temperatures were measured from February 23 to January 24 and showed that we reached 1.52 degrees Centigrade of warming (according to the EU's Copernicus Climate Change Service).

Scientists are now calling for urgent action to cut carbon emissions which can still slow overall warming. The BBC report quotes them as saying: "Look what's happened this year with only 1.5C - we've seen floods, we've seen droughts, we've seen heatwaves and wildfires all over the world."

30-50% of emissions come from buildings and a major part of this is the way we heat them

Martin Fahey Green Martin Fahey Head of Sustainability

What we’ve been doing

As a global corporation, Mitsubishi Electric recently updated its greenhouse gas emissions-reduction targets through 2030 for its corporate group, which have been certified by the Science Based Targets Initiative2 (SBTi) for conformance with the Paris Agreement's 1.5°C trajectory.

For us as a company, this important improvement is a key part of a long term credible plan to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions.

We have positioned sustainability as a cornerstone of its business, management philosophy and environmental vision, and aim to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at our factories and offices by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2031 and throughout our entire value chain by the fiscal year ending March 31, 2051.

Moving forward, Mitsubishi Electric will continue contributing to a sustainable global environment by steadily implementing initiatives for environmental planning and the achievement of SBTs, including reducing the environmental impact of its entire value chain, to realize carbon neutrality, circular economy, and nature positive3 goals.

A real cost of living crisis

One of the other major news stories from the past year has been the cost-of-living crisis.

My colleague Russell Jones focused on research from New Zealand that showed just how much the climate crisis has cost us all – a staggering £13 million each hour!

The report came out just two days after the horrific attack in Israel, so everyone’s attention was there, meaning it didn’t get the coverage it merited.

The researchers measured the economic costs of extreme weather events that are linked to climate change, and the results demonstrate that these dangerous occurrences have caused damage estimated to be at least £2.3tn ($2.8tn) over the past 20 years.

Scientists from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand found that damage from floods, droughts, heatwaves and storms have resulted in an average cost of £115bn ($140bn) a year from 2000 to 2019. The researcher’s latest data shows costs for 2022 standing at £228bn ($280bn).

So, what can be done to slow and reverse global warming? Well,here’s a few of the more recent Hub articles that point to ways of helping tackle the climate crisis, building by building.

A new net zero standard

Dan Smith, our Sustainability and Construction Manager wrote about a fascinating conversation with David Partridge, who is the Chair of the Governance Board of the new UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard.

This could be a pivotal juncture in the quest for sustainability in the building industry and looks at overcoming the challenge of determining the most effective way to ask for, verify and set limiting standards on net zero.

The discussion with David Patridge provides profound insights into the development of the Standard, its goals, future implications, and sheds light on the evolving landscape of sustainable building in the UK.

The podcast focuses on the possibilities of having qualified professionals as standard verifiers to establishing a dedicated body for net zero verification.

A new way of measuring efficiency

Our Head of Service and Maintenance looks at the new standard that is being used to measure a building’s energy efficiency and it’s importance in providing a measurement that is more accurate (and useful) than Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), which are largely theoretical.

The Energy Use Intensity (EUI) concept measures the actual energy consumption of a building per square meter, encompassing both regulated and unregulated energy use.

This shift towards more accurate and realistic energy measurement is a crucial step forward in assessing and managing a building's carbon footprint.

Understanding EUI is vital, not just for new constructions but also for existing building stock. In the past, operational carbon calculations often overlooked indirect operational emissions.

These emissions, often from electricity produced by fossil fuels, contribute significantly to a building's environmental impact. In the UK, it's estimated that 71% of the built environment emissions are indirect operational emissions, underlining the urgent need for more effective energy management strategies.

Bridging the efficiency gap

Dave Archer, our Influienced Sales Business Manager looks at the evolving landscape of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems, where continuous improvement in product development is not just a strategy for enhancing performance and reliability; it is also vital for achieving energy efficiency and low-carbon solutions.

Continuous improvement is crucial in an era when sustainability and energy conservation are required by clients and increasingly mandated through regulations.

For example, there are growing considerations around the embodied and operational carbon of energy-using products within buildings.

These factors mean it’s increasingly important for specifiers to understand the principles of modern manufacturing methods.

The age of the heat pump

Finally, there’s a piece I wrote recently on how we can make some real progress in reducing carbon emissions from commercial heating.

I truly believe that we have now entered the age of the heat pump and are slowly seeing the end of gas being the dominant way of heating our buildings, especially with new, high temperature heat pumps that can literally replace a gas boiler, using the same basic infrastructure.

Whilst this is taking time to bed down in the residential market, which has its own challenges related to leaky housing stock, skills shortages and the high price of electricity compared to gas, the situation in the non-domestic sector is very different.

Commercial buildings in the UK contribute around a quarter of operational carbon emissions in the built environment, so they have a really important role to play if we are to reduce the environmental impact of our buildings in the coming years.

They are also more straightforward to decarbonise so offer the country some ‘low hanging fruit’ to keep us sated on the road to net zero.

So, whilst there are serious challenges ahead, there are solutions available that can help. We all just need to keep talking about them and working together.

Martin Fahey is Head of Sustainability