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If not now, WHEN? If not us, WHO?

Posted: 26th July 2022

Dr Wei Yang

Deputy Chair

Construction Industry Council

Last Tuesday, the UK hit its hottest day on record as temperatures soared over 40C. Unbearable heat, travel chaos, wildfires – the day was a grim experiment of what a typical day in July 2050 could be like. The Mayor of London revealed that the city’s firefighters had their busiest day responding to calls since World War Two. We are literally in a war to fight climate change.

The Glasgow Climate Pact agreed at COP26 kept the goals of limiting global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels. But we all know the opportunity to achieve this goal is extremely limited. Action is being taken, change is starting to occur, but in my opinion, certainly not at the speed it needs to be.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed out that "the emissions gap is the result of a leadership gap.” In my view, this leadership gap needs to be filled both politically and professionally. It is time for the built and natural environment professionals to take a leadership role and work collaboratively to create a valid range of practical solutions that effectively underpin measurable actions.

Last month, I was elected as the Deputy Chair of Construction Industry Council (CIC) and as its first female Chair. The reason for putting my name forward was a strong sense of urgency that we need to work across professional boundaries and to be more proactive to fulfil our joint commitments to deliver a zero-carbon and prosperous future.

Founded in 1988, CIC now brings together 34 professional bodies and other important professional organisations in the built environment industry. CIC exists solely to provide cohesion amongst the professional organisations that plan, design, construct, manage and maintain the built environment. With the support from our members, CIC provides a single voice for professionals in all sectors of the built environment through its collective membership of 500,000 individual professionals.

In Summer 2021, the CIC Climate Change Committee published 'Carbon Zero: the professional institutions’ climate action plan’. One year on from the launch of the plan, the Committee led by former CIC Chair Professor Stephen Hodder MBE has reported some notable successes and I am keen to support CIC’s commitment to lead climate actions.

Our living environment has direct influence on our daily activities, our health and wellbeing. It also contributes to 40% of global energy related Green House Gas emissions, over 33% of global final energy use, and consumes nearly half of the world’s natural resources [1].

To achieve the ambitious goals of zero carbon emissions by 2050, it will require a radical transformation in how we plan, design and use space, and how we live and move.

If we can treat climate, biodiversity and human society as coupled systems, built and natural environment professionals can play a proactive role collaboratively to delivery place-based solutions to tackle multifaceted pressing challenges and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Through my role at CIC, I will dedicate my effort to strengthen cross-disciplinary collaborations between built and natural environment professionals. I would like to invite more professional bodies from the natural environment sector to join CIC to be part of an integrated professional platform to share best practice and stimulate mindset changes within the construction industry.

As CIC’s first female chair, I am also keen to champion Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity in the sector. The responsibility of our sector is not just building physical objects. We are here to create places embodied with empathy, inclusivity, and creativity. For the first time CIC now has a board with women in the majority. It sets a new milestone for the industry to be more diversified.

Inspirational work is being carried out in the CIC at various levels, such as the 2050 Group, Digital Forum, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, the Housing Panel, and many more CIC panels and committees led and formed by representatives of our members. I believe we are on an exciting journey to attract future talents and to modernise the construction industry collaboratively. I look forward to working closely with our Chair Justin Sullivan, Chief Executive Graham Watts OBE, the CIC board and staff, and our fellow Council members to create positive changes within the sector.

I want to conclude my first CIC blog by sharing the meaning of CIC’s logo – ‘an agora’ – it represents ‘a gathering place for discussion with no competing sides, just like a Greek theatre. Its shape is open-ended, signifying that anyone can join the discussion and that the group has no finite size’.

It is the spirit of our CIC – a gathering place for us to have a stronger voice nationally and internationally, and a forum to share our best practice without professional boundaries.

Let’s act now to maximise the potentials of CIC and make a collative effort from the industry to deliver the transformative changes the world deserves.

If not now, WHEN? If not us, WHO?

[1] Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) website

Dr Wei Yang

Deputy Chair

Construction Industry Council

Dr Wei Yang is the Deputy Chair of CIC appointed in June 2022. She will be the first female Chair of CIC in June 2023. Wei is Chair of Wei Yang & Partners. She was President for 2021 of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and an Independent Trustee of the Landscape Institute (LI).