Network Rail sets world-first targets to combat global warming: NR Science-based targets

Thursday 29 Oct 2020

Network Rail sets world-first targets to combat global warming

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Network Rail has announced a major step forward in tackling climate change by becoming the first railway company in the world to set the most ambitious Science-Based Targets to limit global warming.

The targets – and the plans to achieve them – have been independently verified today (29 October), meaning the company will be the first railway to commit to cutting emissions which limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – below the 2 degrees scientists declared necessary to meet the Paris Agreement.

Chief executive Andrew Haines said:

“Rail is already the cleanest and greenest mode of transporting large numbers of people and goods, but we’re committed to cutting our carbon footprint even further. That’s why we’ve set carbon reduction targets backed by science rather than simply ones we think are easy to achieve. We are the first railway in the world to set targets that will help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and this shows our commitment to change.”

“We’re on an important journey – to support the government’s target of being net-zero by 2050, to help the country build back better as we recover from the pandemic and to help passengers and freight users make the greenest choices they can.”

Network Rail is already making progress in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. All of the energy used to power its stations, depots and offices comes from renewable sources, and a trial to move its road fleet – such as the vans needed in rail maintenance work – to electric vehicles is happening now. In addition, the company is looking at how it can use its land to generate renewable electricity as well as support biodiversity, whilst an extensive community tree planting scheme is also underway.

Around two-thirds of the railway’s emissions are generated by suppliers, so as well as working on elements within its control, the organisation is keen to work with its wider supply chain, such as manufacturing and construction companies, to help them to set their own targets.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s safety, technical and engineering director, said:

“Most of our carbon emissions come from our supply chain, so we need to give our suppliers confidence that we are serious about this and must make the changes needed to meet these challenging targets. Many of our suppliers are already making great strides to this end which we can learn from. Working with them to find creative engineering solutions and clever ways to reduce the energy we consume, for example, is key to delivering these targets.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said:

“Rail is one of the greenest forms of transport going and these ambitious targets will keep the UK as a world leader in low carbon travel. The objective is clear - every step of every journey, from entering the station to travelling by train, will be more environmentally friendly.  

“This Government has made the pioneering commitment to be net-zero by 2050 and part of making that happen is ensuring every journey taken becomes a little greener.”

Cynthia Cummis, director of private sector climate mitigation at World Resources Institute, one of the Science Based Targets initiative partners, said:

“We congratulate Network Rail for becoming the first railway company in the world to set a science-based target aligned with limiting warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. By taking ambitious climate action, Network Rail are playing their part in supporting the UK government’s target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050”

Network Rail also recently published its long-term environmental sustainability strategy, which sets out four pillars of focus.



Notes to Editors

The Paris agreement in 2015 saw 195 of the world’s governments commit to prevent climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Science-based targets are targets adopted by companies that are in line with what the latest climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Targets that limit emissions to a 1.5 degree warming scenario are considered the most ambitious.

Science-based targets are validated by an organisation called the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a collaboration between CDP (an environmental non-profit organisation), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute, and the World Wide Fund for Nature.

SBTi has verified and approved Network Rail’s targets and published the results [hyperlink to SBTi website] today (29 October 2020).

Those approved targets are:

Network Rail commits to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emission by 46% by 2029.

Network Rail commits that 75% of its suppliers by emissions covering purchased goods and services and capital goods will have science-based targets by 2025.

Network Rail commits to reduce absolute scope 3 indirect emissions by 28% by 2029.

Scope 1 and 2 emissions are within the organisation’s control, scope three are indirect.

Network Rail is funded in five-year control periods, and has already been allocated money by the government to fund activities in Control Period 6 (CP6), which ends in 2024. There is no ask for more money to fund the activities in the environmental sustainability strategy planned for CP6. These activities will be funded from current funding realised through underspends or efficiencies made in other areas. In many cases sustainability improvements enable efficiencies and financial savings to be made, and much of the work planned for CP6 has already begun and has funding allocated to it.

As part of the work to deliver the strategy Network Rail is developing delivery and financial plans for future control periods. These will be discussed with the government as part of the submission for funding for CP7 and beyond.

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About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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