ADEPT comment: Towards a real benchmark in carbon reporting

ADEPT and the Future Highways Research Group (FHRG), led by Proving Services, recently launched a guidance document to help tackle the challenging issue of ensuring consistent carbon measurement and reporting. Simon Wilson (pictured), FHRG research programme director, explains.

Local authorities recognise that they hold a pivotal role in meeting the net zero carbon emissions target by 2050. More than 300 now have a climate action plan in place and have committed to reaching net zero emissions in the near future.

However, in order to tackle the issue, a consistent, rigorous and detailed method of measuring carbon emissions must be established by all councils. This will allow them to accurately measure – and benchmark – their current emissions and make effective and appropriate plans.

With 35 local authority members, the FHRG is a forum set up to debate, design, develop and test innovative solutions to prevailing and emerging challenges in the highways sector. It aims to give ADEPT local authority members the chance to support strategic transformation, drive the implementation of sector-based innovation and deploy continuous value for money improvements.

Together, these authorities represent around 70% of the local road network across the country, so they form a powerful network that is ambitious about tackling issues such as climate change.

Guidance for the Application of GHG Scope 1 & 2 in Local Highways Authorities (LHAs) has been developed by the FHRG, along with sector specialist support from sponsors Ringway and Atkins, and academic input and analysis. The guidance will provide the first steps in enabling local highways authorities to measure and report their carbon footprint consistently.

The document provides a framework and tools to consistently apply and report Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

It will also create inventories of sources of direct and indirect emissions across vehicles, plant and equipment. GHG emissions are categorised into three scopes by the international accounting tool, the GHG Protocol. Scope 1 covers direct carbon emissions from owned or controlled sources, while Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating, and cooling consumed by the authority.

Scope 3 addresses supply chain emissions, including emissions from purchased goods and services and will be addressed in the next stage of the project.

Because the guidance enables consistency, a detailed inventory will be built up across the country – enabling LHAs to benchmark against other similar authorities whether urban, rural, coastal, mixed, or metropolitan. This will not only help to drive improvements now, but will also provide an overall, national, picture of what local authorities have achieved to date and establish their future role in realising the overall national net zero target.

Eventually, we will be able to spot patterns and trends, figure out what is working well... and less well, and share information between the different authorities and their private sector partners.

Our next steps will focus on delivering Scope 3: Standards & Guidance for the UK Highways Sector, looking at implementing guidance on how to measure and manage supply chain emissions.

This is a very complex area – for example, some authorities share services so we need to carefully consider how we standardise calculations and systems to capture this measurement effectively. LHAs will start working on gathering their data between May and July 2022. We expect the first report to be published in the autumn.

Understanding our current carbon emissions patterns is important for deciding what comes next. Having reliable, consistent data will help LHAs to look at current patterns and plan ahead, ensuring they have effective plans in place to meet the net zero target, and this guidance document will help to achieve this goal.

Looking forward, when complete our work on Scope 3 will give us a whole service picture for carbon reporting, and following that we will start an ambitious new research programme on carbon reduction.

More information about ADEPT can be found at www.adeptnet.org.uk and information about the FHRG is available at: www.adeptnet.org.uk/fhrg.

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