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Climate change – are we changing?


With the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow fast approaching, we thought it would be a good time to take stock of how things have progressed since the last most significant conference: COP21 in 2015, where Governments signed up to their climate change commitments in the Paris Agreement.

Back then, Thermal Road Repairs (TRR) had just launched the very first version of its thermal system for repairing defects in roads. That first system was designed to fix cracking joints between motorway carriageways. Now we have units to treat potholes and defects in roads and footpaths – as well as one for motorway joints.

Since then, we have definitely seen significant shifts in attitudes with respect to climate change and carbon emissions. Here’s three changes we have observed:

1. The Thunberg effect

Love her or hate her, no one can deny the impact of teenage climate change activist Greta Thunberg who began her one-person campaign back in 2018 when she protested outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Perhaps her biggest impact has been to make climate change an everyday conversation among everyday people.

Other groups have also ensured that climate change is a front-page issue. In 2019, Extinction Rebellion called for more urgent action on tackling climate change by occupying five sites in central London and causing a raft of disruption and damage. More recently, motorways around London have been blocked by Insulate Britain, a group trying to highlight that investing to make the UK’s older housing stock energy efficient would slash carbon emissions and lower fuel poverty.

2. Climate change emergencies

In May 2019, the UK Parliament declared a climate emergency. Though environmentalists may feel that the declaration amounts to not much more than rhetoric, this statement did have wider impacts: it was news around the world because we were the first country to do it.

Since then, over 300 local authorities in the UK have also declared climate emergencies, many of them setting goals of carbon neutrality by 2030 or 2050. The next big challenge for local authorities will be to work out exactly how they can reach those goals; many remain an aspiration rather than a firm road map.

3. Supply chain scrutiny

Many main contractors have stepped up to the plate to set themselves goals of carbon cutting and carbon neutrality. It can be difficult to compare their ambitions. Some companies will be factoring in carbon offsetting, such as tree planting. Others will simply be considering emissions from their offices and company cars, since they own no equipment and carry out all of their work via subcontractors.

However, in 2019, Skanska UK set the bar high by saying that it would be measuring and targeting the carbon produced by its supply chain as well as its own activities. Back then, Skanska estimated that the ‘true’ figure for its carbon footprint was ten times higher, if supply chain emissions, including manufacture, transportation and installation of materials, were counted. Since then, a handful of other contractors have followed Skanska’s lead.

Low-carbon future?

While it is unlikely that COP26 will see any commitments or news that is quite so significant as the Paris Agreement, it is already having an impact. Like all the changes mentioned here, COP26 is increasing awareness and raising the number of conversations we have about climate change and cutting carbon.

For TRR, that means more and more interest in our carbon credentials: the fact that our system emits 83% less of the carbon of traditional pothole repair method, by reusing failed asphalt and using solar energy. But we cannot claim that our small carbon footprint is the only factor driving the increasing demand for our technology that we have experienced over the past two years.

To offer a viable solution, alternative technologies must attract the same or a lower capital cost than traditional methods and have a longer service life. Longevity saves vast amounts of carbon emissions due to savings in maintenance activities and materials.

Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. We invest significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve our existing ones.

High output. Low emission. Permanent solution.

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