On 12 November, industry body Water UK unveiled the world’s first sector strategy for achieving net-zero carbon emissions. We collaborated with Water UK, all of the water and wastewater companies it represents and fellow consultant Ricardo, to develop the water industry ‘Net-zero 2030 routemap’. It explains how the industry can fulfil its commitment, made in 2019, to cut its emissions to net-zero by 2030 – 20 years faster than the UK as a whole.
A collaborative endeavour
Net-zero isn’t something that any one water or wastewater company can achieve alone. Every single organisation will have to work with its peers, with the whole of its supply chain, with landowners and with its customers. Government and regulators have pivotal roles in setting the policy and legislative frameworks to enable and incentivise the transition. Net-zero by 2030 will be a huge team effort.
There will be many challenges but also opportunities and rewards.
Work is underway to fill some important gaps in the industry’s knowledge, particularly regarding the emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from wastewater treatment. As research and monitoring produce new data, companies must share it freely, if the industry as a whole is to take timely action.
Net-zero recognises that some greenhouse gas emissions are inevitable, and these will have to be removed through carbon sequestration – principally by planting trees and restoring peatland. Geography and access to land will make it easier for some companies to do this: long-term partnerships, new carbon markets and transparent accounting will be essential.
Digital: an essential enabler
All legs of the net-zero journey will be assisted by data. It is essential that the industry accelerates its embrace of the digital revolution to assist its understanding of carbon hot spots, the effects on emissions of operational changes, and potential trade-offs – between water companies, and across infrastructure systems. Digitalisation will be an enabler of net-zero.
Rapid innovation, upscaling and sharing are required. The industry’s supply chain needs to be aligned, supported and rewarded to achieve this – consultants, contractors and manufacturers are mission-critical partners.
With this routemap, Water UK has blazed a trail – we’re proud of our part in developing it. Others are eager to study it and learn. The next decade will be an exciting one as the industry pursues the goal. In September Mott MacDonald was externally certified carbon neutral – as part of the industry’s supply chain we are playing our part. But our biggest contribution will be in helping our clients – in September we were reaccredited to PAS 2080, the international standard for managing infrastructure carbon by working together with others. We look forward to assisting the industry and in celebrating its achievement in 2030.