Project managers say Net Zero achievable but call for more expertise

The majority of project professionals working in the healthcare sector have confidence that the UK government will meet its 2050 Net Zero targets, according to a new survey by the Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered membership organisation for the project profession.

It comes after new figures showed UK emissions fell by 5.7% in 2023 to the lowest level since 1879, according to analysis based on preliminary government energy data from the website, Carbon Brief. The APM said: “Our analysis showed that emissions fell to 383 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) last year. Barring the general strike of 1926, emissions haven’t fallen below 400 million tonnes of CO2e since the Victorian era. It also means that the UK is now more than halfway to Net Zero by 2050, despite the UK economy having grown by 82% in the past 33 years.”

It was also recently announced that the Government has committed to support the building of new gas power stations ‘to maintain a safe and reliable energy source for days when the weather forecast doesn’t power up renewables’.

A poll of 1,000 project management professionals, undertaken by national research company, Censuswide, found that 94% of the healthcare sector respondents were ‘somewhat confident’ that the UK government will achieve its 2050 Net Zero target that is enshrined in law, and 6% were ‘very confident.’ However, 57% highlighted concerns over the profession’s pipeline talent to sustain the delivery of Net Zero projects – adding to growing calls for urgent action to tackle the skills gap across the sector.

The APM says the ‘top reasons’ for their confidence were action being taken by their company (selected by 55% of respondents) and sector (49%). In recent years, the Government has called on businesses to reduce their carbon emissions. Recommended action has included switching to low-emission lightbulbs, adjusting heating and cooling systems, installing smart meters, insulating buildings, and fleet electrification. In 2020, businesses accounted for 18% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions.

In all, 28% of respondents also selected UK government measures/legislation as a reason for their confidence. The Association for Project Management said: “The Government’s 2023 Net Zero Growth Plan, for example, aims to scale up technologies to decarbonise homes, power, industry, and transport. However in September 2023, Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, controversially scaled back on green policies affecting electric vehicles and gas boilers, drawing criticism from the climate watchdog.”

Meanwhile, the APM says, 57% do not believe there are enough project professionals in the talent pipeline to sustain the future delivery of Net Zero projects in the healthcare sector. Of these, 8% strongly agreed, and 49% somewhat agreed with the statement, while another 41% neither agreed nor disagreed.

Andrew Baldwin, head of Policy and Public Affairs at APM (pictured), said: “With the UK striving to become a global leader in combating climate change, project managers working across the healthcare sector are playing a pivotal role in driving the transition to Net Zero. As the experts on the frontline, they are embracing responsibilities ranging from strategic planning to resource management, addressing complex challenges such as stakeholder engagement and technology adoption, and leading the way towards a better sustainable future. That’s why it’s very encouraging to learn from our latest survey that many healthcare project managers believe the UK will achieve its flagship 2050 Net Zero target.

“However, our profession is not naïve. We know there is more to do, at both a government level and within the project management sector itself, and the warning about the talent shortage affecting the future delivery of Net Zero projects must not be ignored. As the only chartered membership organisation for the project profession, APM will continue to ensure that our concerns are listened to and acted upon.”

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