Launching the Carbon Big Question Projects

Launching the Carbon Big Question Projects

Published On 18/05/2021

The Carbon Big Question How do we Remove more Carbon than we Emit by 2050? has reached the important stage of commissioning projects for 2021/22 which concentrate on the two key areas of measurement and accountability.

The first critical area is around improving the measurement of carbon emissions so the water industry can determine what future action it may need to take.

The second is to continue to provide credible carbon accounting tools so that Government, regulators, stakeholders, and customers have confidence in the water industry’s ability to meet its carbon commitments.

The water industry only accounts for around 1% of the UK’s total greenhouse gases but it is the fourth most emissions intensive industry. Only energy, transport and manufacturing produce more. The four carbon projects comprise:

Quantifying and reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions from wastewater treatment processes

To help address the significant knowledge gaps in actual emissions from wastewater treatment processes and identify potential measurement, reporting and control measures. 
Essentially it will be a `proof of concept’ trial that can be widened to further validate a new approach for water and wastewater companies to adopt.

Updating Carbon Accounting  

This workbook refresh will provide greater functionality to a critical water industry tool including provisions to allow future emissions reporting on sludge treatment and use of green gas and fuels; and specialist review of the emission factors and calculations used in the workbook itself.

Land Carbon Sequestration Tool

The UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology are to further develop a tool that calculates net volumes of carbon sequestration (the term given to the process of capturing and storing greenhouse gasses) across water companies’ landholdings and/or the impact of a water company’s work on third party land.

Calculating whole life carbon

Embodied carbon, for example within capital programmes that build new water company assets, receive less attention than operational carbon emissions and so there is a risk that the combined capital and operational carbon impacts are not being fully assessed, captured, and reported on.

UKWIR’s carbon projects will also support Water UK’s Public Interest Commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions for the water industry by 2030.

Dan Green, Wessex Water and UKWIR Programme Lead put the Carbon Big Question in context. 'If the industry spends £1, it emits carbon; if it digs a hole, it emits carbon; if it builds new infrastructure, it requires more carbon.

We need to develop transformational thinking and a sustainable carbon thread through all the water industry’s processes, operations and capital investment decisions so we can play our part in delivering our own and the UK’s carbon emissions targets'.

There will be a series of workshops to disseminate the findings of these carbon projects during the Spring of 2022.