Timber an “exciting, low-carbon solution to our built environment emissions”, says APPG Chair

APPG for the Timber Industries Chair, Baroness Hayman of Ullock, gives her thoughts on the latest timber policy report:

Climate change is increasingly central to global policy discussions and for good reason. If we are to ensure a sustainable future for all we must take action, and we must do it now.

It is a cross-party issue, with all the major UK political parties committed to decarbonising the UK and achieving net zero emissions. To do this, we must tackle one of the key sources of emissions – the built environment.

Our buildings often get ignored in climate debates, as we focus on the more obvious polluters like energy and transport. The built environment directly accounts for 25% of emissions in the UK, stemming from the day-to-day use of buildings (operational carbon) as well as their manufacture and construction (embodied carbon).

If we are to tackle these emissions, a foundational shift in the way we build and operate our buildings is required. This means prioritizing low-carbon materials in construction and moving away from energy-intensive, non-regenerative resources. It also requires avoiding demolition in favour of the retrofit and improvement of our existing buildings.

In my capacity as Co-Chair of the APPG for the Timber Industries, I have looked to encourage the use of low-carbon building materials, like wood, in construction.

The benefits of timber construction have been well-documented in recent years. It is the construction material with the lowest level of embodied carbon, requiring little energy for its manufacture. It acts as a carbon store as a building product and when sustainably sourced, is responsible for expanding forests in both the UK and abroad.

Timber is also the material of choice for modern methods of construction (MMC), a revolutionary way of building that creates efficient, high-quality homes capable of satisfying the growing demand for housing.

It is a truly exciting, low-carbon solution to our built environment emissions and a crucial component in our bid to reach net zero. This has been recognised by the government who, in late 2021, created the Timber in Construction Working Group, which is creating a roadmap to expand timber usage in the UK.

This working group has fostered extensive collaboration between government and industry, identifying the barriers and potential stumbling blocks to expanding timber construction in the UK.

The latest report from the APPG seeks to understand what is behind these barriers and provide a set of policy solutions that will allow for the safe expansion of low-carbon timber construction in the UK.

It is argued in the report that expanding low-carbon timber construction does not require timber-specific or pro-timber policies. Rather, growing demand for timber will come about through sensible policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions in the built environment, increasing affordable housing supply, and stimulating low-carbon, circular economies.

The APPG hopes this report will provide some inspiration for parties across the house in their bids to form green-built environment policies ahead of the next election.

Read the full report – Timber Construction: Barriers and Solutions – here.

This article was originally written by Baroness Hayman of Ullock, who is the Chair of the APPG for the Timber Industries and Shadow Spokesperson (Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities) in the House of Lords.