Through Water UK, water companies in England have launched a major project to design the plan that will help deliver their world-leading goal to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
The water industry is the first industrial sector in the UK, and one of the first major sectors in the world, to commit to a carbon zero future by 2030. The goal forms part of the industry’s Public Interest Commitment (PIC) released earlier this year with the carbon zero goal one of five stretching social and environmental ambitions.
As the fourth most energy intensive industry in the UK, the water sector directly contributes around 5 million tonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions each year. As well as the immediate impact of carbon reductions, the industry intends to share its learnings to help other major energy-using industries to deliver their own plans.
Working with two international consultancies, Ricardo and Mott MacDonald, the sector will develop a comprehensive action plan detailing the measures the industry will deploy to achieve zero carbon emissions over the next decade.
The consultancies will add their expertise and lead on the production of the plan, which will be published in March 2020 followed by a detailed report in the Summer. Ricardo and Mott Macdonald, on behalf of Water UK and UKWIR, will carry out research to help define and agree a practical approach to the pledge, while also assessing what carbon reduction measures will have most impact.
Progress on the goal will be independently assessed each year, with key milestones reported publicly. Individual companies will use the action plan to inform their own detailed approaches to meeting net zero across the industry by 2030.
The announcement comes as the UN reveals countries will have to increase their carbon-cutting ambitions five-fold if the world is to avoid warming by more than 1.5C. The annual emissions gap report showed that even if all current promises are met, the world will warm by more than double that amount by 2100.
Water companies have already started working towards the carbon zero goal with many programmes and initiatives in place. These include:
- The industry plans to plant 11 million trees across the country by 2030. The joint proposals, announced earlier this year, will see trees planted on around 6,000 hectares of land across England together with work to restore original woodland and improve natural habitats that themselves provide carbon capture.
- As bottled water is around 900 times more carbon intensive than tap water, the water industry has led on a national shift towards refilling water bottles through the Refill campaign. With partners City to Sea, the industry has delivered an increase in the number of free refill stations from 1,500 in 2017 to around 26,000 today – and the number continues to grow. In addition, the sector has committed to preventing the equivalent of 4 billion plastic bottles ending up as waste by 2030 through the PIC
- Building on a reduction in leakage of a third since the 1990s, water companies in England have committed to triple the rate of leakage reduction to 2030 as part of the PIC and are delivering plans to reduce by a fifth the average amount of water used per person by 2050. This will significantly reduce the carbon and energy used by the sector.
Read more at Water UK