In 2009, Anglian Water set ambitious targets and illustrated strong leadership, publicly declaring its intention to halve capital carbon by 2015 from a 2010 baseline and deliver a real terms 10% reduction in operational carbon at the same time.
Seven years on, and working with a fully aligned supply chain, it cut 54% of its capital carbon in 2015 – achieved in association with average reductions in capex of 22%. It also exceeded its targets in operational carbon, clearly demonstrating that reducing carbon reduces cost.
It proves that successful action can be taken.
So in 2013, the Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills launched the Infrastructure Carbon Review (ICR) aimed at leaders to calalyse change and release the value of low carbon solutions.
Its stated objective was to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from UK infrastructure to the tune of 24Mt CO2 equivalent (CO2e). It sweetened the deal by suggesting that such a move would also save an estimated £1.46bn a year by 2050.
This intent has now been endorsed by over 50 leading UK infrastructure organisations.
The next really positive step forward is the launch on 4 May of a new publicly available specification (PAS) and guidance document to enable consistency in the way the infrastructure industry evaluates and manages whole-life carbon emissions.
“Not only will the PAS detail what actions each part of the value chain need to be put in place to deliver reduced carbon, reduced cost solutions, but the guidance document will define ‘how’,” explains Chris Newsome, asset management director at Anglian Water and chairman of the Green Construction Board Infrastructure Working Group.
PAS 2080 Infrastructure Carbon Management and the associated guidance document will be published on 4 May and Newsome wants to see a fast uptake.
“Our challenge will be how quickly infrastructure organisations can embed PAS 2080 into their organisations and deliver the reduced carbon reduced cost assets of the future,” he states.
“The key message from the Infrastructure Carbon Review was the link between reduced carbon and reduced cost in delivering all infrastructure– including water, energy, transport, communications and waste ,” says Mott MacDonald water sustainability leader Maria Manidaki who is project managing the technical author team for PAS 2080.
She says the important thing is that PAS 2080 will provide a common language for different members of the value chain.
“When we talk about the value chain we’re talking about asset owners, managers, designers, constructors and suppliers,” adds Manidaki. “And when I say a common language it’s about developing a common approach or system, a carbon management system, which will trigger the right behaviours to deliver low carbon and low cost infrastructure.”
You might argue that a strategy to deal with the industry’s carbon habit is long overdue. Manidaki says the Infrastructure Carbon Review revealed why it has taken so long to come up with a solution.
“A lot of companies in the value chain, especially designers, constructors and suppliers have asked how they are supposed to deliver low-carbon projects if the infrastructure asset owner doesn’t ask for it,” she says. “But on the other hand, the asset owners were expecting the value chain to be more proactive and knock on their doors with low carbon ideas. The Infrastructure Carbon Review observed that there was a disconnection in the value chain.”
To overcome this, different strands of the supply chain have been brought together to inform the document. The Green Construction Board Infrastructure Working Group, which is sponsoring the specification, consists of senior people from across different parts of the value chain. It includes Anglian Water, Carillion, Clancy Docwra, High Speed 2 (HS2), Bentley, Skanska, UK Power Networks, National Grid, Mott MacDonald and Arup.
“The [specification] had a budget shortfall but we realised that the quality of PAS we wanted meant those members put their hands in their pockets to make sure the industry got what it needs in this area,” says Anglian Water carbon manager and GCB chair David Riley.
This level of senior engagement gives Manidaki confidence that PAS 2080 best practice might become embedded in the industry.
“The same people who have been pushing for people to sign up and demonstrate leadership towards the Green Construction Board Infrastructure Carbon Review commitments are the same people who are going to launch PAS 2080 and try to push its use,” she says.
However, where the Infrastructure Carbon Review was targeted at chief executive level, the steering group for PAS 2080 also includes people at lead practitioner level who are responsible for deploying carbon reduction methodologies in their organisations or people who are leading capital delivery programmes. As a starting point, Manidaki says PAS 2080 will provide them with guidance about quantifying carbon.
We recognise different enablers in the carbon management system and one of the enablers is quantification
“We recognise different enablers in the carbon management system and one of the enablers is quantification,” she says. “PAS recognises there are different standards out there for specific quantification requirements. It will try to give an overview of important aspects of quantification, for example what types of emissions need to be included, because we’re very keen to promote the whole-life carbon message, not only capital and operational carbon.”
PAS 2080 is keen for construction firms to quantify whole-life carbon, not only capital and operational carbon
Riley says the specification will give the supply chain a framework against which it can also manage and reduce carbon.
This will challenge suppliers about the way they use materials and the energy they use in manufacturing. He points to the work suppliers such as Tarmac are doing in terms of reducing their carbon emissions, but argues that the most important thing is that the industry now needs a more joined up approach.
“At the moment we have a fragmented approach,” he says. “This is the missing piece to make sure we have an aligned value chain.”
Like Manidaki, Riley thinks the Infrastructure Carbon Review was about calling industry leaders to action and PAS 2080 is about providing the guidance for practitioners. But for the industry to embrace the document and implement change, he thinks leadership will be essential.
“The easy part is writing it,” he says. “It’s far more difficult to get it embedded.”