With global water use, storage and distribution responsible for around 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, there has never been a more important time for the sector to transform its approach to water and wastewater services.
The international water community has stepped up to the challenge with pledges from 26 utilities to join the Race to Zero and drive down the emissions associated with providing water and wastewater services to over 72 million people.
Race to Zero is the UN-backed, global campaign to rally leadership and support from all non-state actors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery. All members are committed to the same overarching goal: halving global emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 at the very latest.
The announcement comes as the international water community hosts the first ever COP Water Pavilion, bringing together over 30 organisations, governments and companies to speak with one voice on the powerful water-related solutions that are at the heart of effective climate action. The Pavilion aims to deliver cutting edge, science-based advice to climate decision makers and offer countries the opportunity to learn more about the central role that water plays in the climate crisis.
Nigel Topping, UK High-Level Climate Action Champion, said: “The Race to Zero campaign has resulted in hundreds of companies globally committing to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 at the very latest. These companies find themselves in the vanguard of climate leadership and it is encouraging to see the growing number of water utilities amongst them.
“Such a critical mass of commitments will send a resounding ambition signal to policymakers that the water utility sector is taking meaningful action on climate change.
“I applaud the commitments made by those utilities that have joined the Race this year and look forward with great anticipation to these commitments moving swiftly into action. It’s time to get to work!”
Water UK has been working as an official partner to the Race to Zero to encourage providers of water and wastewater services around the world to commit to achieving net zero and will be hosting and taking part in a series of events in Glasgow this week.
Christine McGourty, CEO of Water UK, said: “We could not be prouder to be playing our part in COP and to be working with our partners to drive forward progress on net zero.
“We’re facing a critical decade for the environment that will require collaboration on a global scale as we work to build long-term plans that deliver for people and planet. By investing early in sustainable water solutions, countries and utilities have an important opportunity to deliver programmes that will be cost-effective for both the sector and the consumer, and we don’t have time to waste.
“We look forward to sharing key insights with climate leaders from around the world and working together to get the right frameworks in place to deliver net zero.”
A total of 13 Australian water utilities and one New Zealand company have pledged through the Race to Zero to reach net zero by 2050 or earlier, with some pledging to achieve their target as early as 2025.
Adam Lovell, Executive Director, Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), said: “Climate change is already causing irreversible harm. But it also creates opportunities. The urban water industry is at the cutting edge of many innovations to reduce its carbon footprint like producing renewable energy, harvesting the valuable resources that can be recovered through wastewater treatment, producing green hydrogen and ammonia which can be used as green fuels, and transitioning to electric vehicles.
“Congratulations to all the Australian and New Zealand water utilities for this show of commitment and leadership on climate change, the most important issue of our time.”