Carbon and climate

The world faces a climate emergency, and we pledge to minimise our impact on the environment.

Our commitment to the planet

Climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, is our biggest long-term challenge. We are committed to protecting our planet and we are making strides to limit our environmental impact while still providing the best service for our customers.

As part of this, we aim to achieve net zero operational carbon emissions by 2030 - along with other water companies in England. These are our annual emissions linked to our energy use and transport, plus other greenhouse gases that are emitted from sewage and sludge treatment processes.

We also aim to achieve net zero total carbon emissions by 2040. This includes our operational emissions outlined above, plus 'embodied carbon' emissions linked to construction materials, consumables such as treatment chemicals, and other parts of our supply chain.

Our greenhouse gas emissions

Our net zero commitment coves emissions from our regulated activities: water treatment and distribution, sewerage, sewage treatment and sludge treatment. The emissions we report are divided into three ‘scopes’, as per greenhouse gas reporting standards:

1: Emissions from our own sites and assets e.g. fuels burnt on site, our vehicle fleet

2: Emissions from the generation of grid electricity that we use

3: Other indirect emissions that occur in the company's value chain, including outsourced activities.

Wessex water baseline emissions table with statistics from 2019-2020

Our routemap to net zero

In 2021, we published our routemap to net zero operational carbon, showing the actions we need to take for a more sustainable and low-carbon future. Our routemap highlights our approach over the next few years to achieve net zero operational carbon by 2030. This will involve a combination of both readily-available and innovative technologies and ways of working.

Some of the next steps that involve established technologies and methods will include:

  • emissions avoidance measures, such as reducing water use and leakage; increasing the use of lower carbon transport; and promoting nature-based solutions that avoid energy use
  • optimisation measures, such as energy efficiency work and systems for monitoring and controlling nitrous oxide from sewage treatment
  • renewable energy – increasing the amount of biogas that we generate from anaerobic digestion and pursuing opportunities for wind and solar power, either as generators or as the end-user.

Read our Net Zero Report 2021

Innovation for net zero

Along with the wider UK water industry, we have already pledged to move early in mitigating the climate emergency by achieving net zero carbon emissions from our operations as early as 2030.

In addition, we are targeting net zero embodied carbon associated with the materials, products and services we use by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the national goal.

Find out more about our approach to innovation for net zero as well as our other innovative work.

Engineer working on new equipment in high vis and hard hat

Achieving total net zero carbon by 2040

To achieve our net zero total carbon target by 2040, we plan to develop a whole-life total carbon approach, connecting both operational and embodied carbon emissions. This must be central to our decision-making processes to enable our transition into a truly low carbon business. Looking ahead, it will necessarily mean challenging assumptions about the best ways to carry out investment for our customers, communities, and the water environment.

If we are unable to achieve net zero through changes across the business and low carbon improvements across the energy and transport sector, we would look to offsetting as a last resort e.g. projects elsewhere that provide carbon savings to compensate for the remaining carbon emissions from the business.

Adapting to climate change

The world's climate has already warmed by 1.1 degrees centigrade since the start of the 20th century. Worldwide we are seeing the effects of this in terms of extreme weather events including heatwaves, droughts, intense storm events and prolonged rainfall.

While events such as these have happened in the past, climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ that increases risks. This means that extreme weather events that are considered possible but unusual by today’s standards will occur more frequently and to a greater intensity in the future.

For our part, we have developed a climate change adaptation plan which outlines the main climate-related risks that we face and the work that we are carrying out that will help us adapt to them. Details are provided in our latest climate change adaptation report.

Adaptation includes:

  • reducing leakage across our network to help ensure a sustainable water supply to meet future demand
  • establishing the West Country Water Resources Group with neighbouring water companies to manage future supply and ensure resilience
  • reducing the infiltration of groundwater into sewers and working with local councils on surface water management
  • raising electrical equipment positions at low-lying sites to ensure we can continue delivering our services when flooding occurs, and linking up with other agencies that are affected by extreme weather events.

We are experienced at coping with acute weather-related impacts and we build them into our planning activities and risk assessments. This will help to continue providing excellent services, even as extreme weather events occur more frequently as the impacts of climate change intensify.

Portrait image of Executive Director of Wessex Water, Colin Skellett

It is critical that we focus our efforts on ways to neutralise our carbon footprint and are committed to achieving net zero operational carbon emissions by 2030. However, we believe we must decarbonise all aspects of our work, and will work to achieve net zero total emissions by 2040 at the latest.

Colin Skellett,

Chief Executive

Climate Change Adaptation Report

Tackling the climate emergency

This report sets out how we plan to adapt to climate change. It covers the climate-related hazards that could affect us, the level of risk that they pose for our business, and the adaptation options that we have in place or propose.