The most comprehensive climate change report to ever be published by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change by the UN) has today warned that humanity is on “code red” and that some of the changes already taking place on the planet, like sea-level rises, are irreversible.
As a sector, along with all other areas of business and society, UK fenestration has a huge part to play. This report makes for damning reading and should be the moment where everyone, including us in fenestration, understands the severity of the report and moves to rapidly increase efforts to reduce our footprint on the planet.
More to do
I think most of us are fully on board with the concept of climate change at that humanity has had a massive impact on the environment. There are the odd vocal deniers, but from what I can see they’re in a dwindling minority. But just in case you need a reminder as to how much the planet it suffering, these are just some of the major weather events that have ravaged the globe so far this year:
- early 2021 – Madrid sees record snowfall
- January 2021 – Storm Christoph in the UK produces the wettest three-day period for North Wales and North West England
- February 2021 – big freeze in Texas sees temps drop to minus 13 degrees celsius and kills 210 people
- March 2021 – worst sandstorm in a decade hits Mongolia and norther China
- March 2021 – major flooding hits NSW in Australia
- May 2021 onwards – major wildfires rip through Greece and continue to raze buildings and villages in major islands
- June 2021 – Moscow hits record 34.8 celsius
- June 2021 – record heat dome hits Northwest US and Canada and kills hundreds. Canada hits record 121 degrees Fahrenheit and incurs wildfires. Pacific Northwest US sets multiple records. Also suffers from wildfires which continue to burn.
- July 2021 onwards – Western US suffers from intense megadrought and vast wildfires that continue to burn. Dixie fire in California is now the state’s second-largest in history and continues to spread.
- July 2021 – devastating flooding hits Germany, Belgium and surrounding nations. Hundreds die and billions of euros of damage are done to vast swathes of the country.
- July 2021 – major flooding hits China. BBC reports that it may be worst flooding in 1000 years.
That list does not include everything. As of now, wildfires are burning in many European countries, with the fires in Greece getting special attention in the media. Siberia in Russia is burning, as they reach the high 30s. The western US is still in megadrought conditions that continue to worsen, with wildfires in California burning hundreds of thousands of acres. I could go on.
The UN report that was published today paints a grim picture of the current situation and where we’re headed. They say that the agreed 1.5c limit on temperature rising is on life-support. That sea-level rises are irreversible and that it is unequivocal that humans have warmed the planet. You can read the entire report, based on 14,000 scientific papers, here.
It’s a chilling report. However, it does go on to mention that if the world is able to reach net-zero and bring in quickly measures that are able to reduce our impact, then temperatures will stabilise. When that happens is down to all of us. The quicker we can all do more, the quicker we can slam the breaks on climate change. It does though appear that with the damage already done, and the time it will take to turn this all around, there are going to be communities and nations around the world that will not escape the devastating effects of climate change.
What can UK fenestration do?
We all know well by now that the industry has made major strides when it comes to recycling post-consumer frames. There have been a number of huge recycling plants dedicated to the recycling of PVCu frames. Millions of frames are being kept out of the ground thanks to these massive facilities.
But that is just the start. Moving on from here, we have to make sure that every single frame, be it timber, aluminium, steel or PVCu does not go into the ground but does go into the recycling economy. Every glass unit removed from a building also needs to be recycled. Basically, any post-consumer material has to go back into the circular economy and be re-used. Nothing coming out of an existing building should be going into the ground.
So, wherever possible we need to be using as much recycled material as possible. But we can’t stop there. We need to look at all areas of our operations. For example, the vehicles we use. Electric cars aren’t cheap, but costs are coming down. We need to be looking at using more electric cars that are used as company cars. Vans are also making progress in the electric space, but the costs remain high. Over time this will come and down and as they do, we need to be switching to electric vans. LGVs and HGVs are perhaps the biggest barriers to overcome when it comes to electric power, but I’m sure we’ll get there.
The buildings we work from should be sourcing energy from renewable sources. We can all choose to use suppliers that get their energy from sustainable options, such as wind and solar. These are relatively easy to find, and comparison sites, as well as company websites, should show how each energy provider supplies their energy to you.
Going paperless is another area to improve on. the amount of tech and software that is available in our industry really does allow us to ditch a lot of the paper that we currently use. And for when we absolutely have to use paper, we need to make sure it is recycled each and every time. The same goes for any cans and plastic bottles where food and drink are consumed at work.
That is just a flavour of some of the things we can all do as an industry to reduce our impact on the climate. And this isn’t something we can put off for a few more years. If even the medium-case scenario from the UN report is accurate, every one of us has to start right now and make major changes to our production d consumption processes. We are out of time.
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