A new major project has been launched by UK water companies to set out an action plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2030.
It is working with two international consultancies, Ricardo and Mott MacDonald, to develop the plan detailing the measures the sector will deploy to achieve the target over the next decade.
Progress will be independently assessed every year, with key milestones reported publicly and individual companies will use the action plan to inform their own detailed approaches towards meeting the goal.
The consultancies, on behalf of Water UK and UK Water Industry Research (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.
The water sector, the fourth most energy intensive industry in the UK, directly contributes around five million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year.
The goal is part of the sector’s Public Interest Commitment (PIC) published earlier this year and is one of five commitments made by the sector.
The industry also plans to plant 11 million trees across the UK by 2030 and committed to triple the rate of water leakage reduction during the same period, with the goal of reducing the average amount of water used per person by a fifth by 2050.
Water companies have also partnered with City to Sea to boost the number of free refill stations from 1,500 in 2017 to around 26,000 today and has committed to preventing the equivalent of four billion plastic bottles ending up as waste by 2030.
Peter Simpson, Chief Executive of Anglian Water and one of the sponsors of the project on behalf of the sector, said:
“This is an important first step on the sector’s journey to be net carbon zero by 2030. Climate change is an existential threat to our environment and way of life. Business as usual is simply not an option.
“This vital project will help us find the technologies and processes we will need to help us become carbon zero. We’ve made great strides in recent years reducing both operational and embedded carbon but we don’t have all the answers. So bringing in outside expertise to help us reach this target is essential.
“The water industry is committed to playing a leading role in decarbonising our economy and while achieving net zero carbon for the sector by 2030 is an extremely challenging task, there is huge conviction, enthusiasm and passion from across the sector to ensure we achieve it.”
In addition to reducing its carbon impacts, the water sector also intends to share its learnings to help other major energy-using industries to develop their own plans.