UK Water Net Zero Carbon: Embracing the natural solution
Natural capital can help us in our green economic recovery and net zero carbon ambitions.
The role natural capital approaches play in supporting the delivery of some of the most challenging environmental targets is becoming increasingly accepted. For example, the U.K. water industry has pledged to plant 11 million trees in support of 2030 carbon neutrality targets. However, here we argue that an increasingly mature approach is needed to fully benefit from the opportunities an ecosystems approach affords carbon management.
Primarily, this relates to opportunities for carbon insetting and relationships with natural resilience; developing a natural capital baseline; and challenging how we think about nature and carbon. These approaches should not detract from decarbonization aspirations and should be seen as a complementary means of meeting net zero carbon targets, once green technologies and wider efficiencies have been sought.
Carbon insetting reduces emissions within the value chain of an organization and invests in the ecosystems water companies depend on to enhance resilience and provide wider benefit.
For water companies to benefit from the carbon insetting opportunities provided by natural capital, each water company must have a baseline understanding of the natural capital assets they depend on and influence. This will prevent the pitfalls associated with carbon insetting approaches, allowing for the right interventions in the right place. Preventing monoculture and encouraging diverse environments.
We need to challenge how we think about nature and the ability of different land use types to sequester carbon. While carbon insetting opportunities will most likely include traditional tree planting, we urge water companies to look beyond forestry and consider wider nature-based solutions where appropriate, such as those including blue-carbon solutions, as part of a holistic approach.
Penny Borton is a Chartered Environmentalist, an award-winning natural capital practitioner and interdisciplinary member of Jacobs' Water and Environment team.
Penny is a technical specialist in the field of natural capital and leads Jacobs’ Natural Capital Strategy. She is currently the technical lead for several natural capital projects for Transport Scotland and the Environment Agency. Alongside strong project delivery, Penny is a thought-leader across the discipline, most recently providing editorial to The Environment magazine and showcasing pioneering social capital work at Flood and Coast 2019.
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