United Kingdom: Network Rail sets world-first targets to combat global warming


Network Rail has taken a major step forward in tackling climate change by becoming the world’s first railway company to set the most ambitious science-based targets to limit global warming.

The Science Based Targets initiative, backed by the United Nations, has independently verified Network Rail’s targets and its plans to achieve them. This means that Network Rail is the first railway company to commit to cutting emissions to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This in even less than the two degrees scientists declared necessary to meet the Paris Agreement, a global framework for prevention of dangerous climate change.

Science-based targets are targets adopted by companies in line with what the latest climate science deems 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.

Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of Network Rail, 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 it uses to power stations, depots and offices comes from renewable sources. Meanwhile, a trial to move its road fleet – such as the vans needed in rail maintenance work – to electric vehicles is underway.

Network Rail is also exploring ways to use its land to generate renewable electricity as well as support biodiversity, and has an extensive community tree planting scheme.

The company’s suppliers generate about two thirds of its emissions; therefore, Network Rail is keen to work with its wider supply chain, such as manufacturing and construction companies, to help them set their own targets, too.

Martin Frobisher, Safety, Technical and Engineering Director at Network Rail, 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.”

Sustainability targets
Network Rail has committed to:

  • reducing absolute scope one and two greenhouse gas emissions (those within its control) by 46 per cent by 2029.
  • reducing absolute scope three (indirect) emissions by 28 per cent by 2029.
  • ensuring that 75 per cent of its suppliers have science-based targets for emissions covering purchased goods and services and capital goods (those used in the production of other goods) by 2025.

Network Rail’s science-based targets follow the launch of its Environmental Sustainability Strategy in September. The company wants rail to remain the greenest and most reliable form of public transport in Britain so that it can play a vital part in green economic recovery and growth.

The strategy is designed to maximise the positive contribution rail can make to the lives of passengers, society and the economy while minimising any negative impact on the environment. It focuses on four areas: a low-emission railway, a reliable railway resilient to climate change, improved biodiversity, and minimal waste and sustainable use of materials.

(Source: Network Rail)

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