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Network Rail introduce science-based targets for rail industry

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NETWORK RAIL HAS PUBLISHED plans to encourage all rail suppliers to set science-based targets to achieve long-term sustainability. 

The British infrastructure manager have set a target for 75% of rail companies to implement science-based targets by 2025. They are the first railway organisation in the world to set these kinds of standards. 

Science-based targets, otherwise known as SBTs, are a method of setting targets to reduce carbon output and achieve long-term sustainability goals – such as net zero. They also help companies determine the rate and amount by which they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. 

But what makes these targets ‘science-based’? 

In a recent presentation, Network Rail defined such targets as ‘science-based’ if they align with what the most updated climate science says is necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. This includes limiting global warming to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and limiting warming to 1.5°C. 

Network Rail’s work is approved by the Science Based Targets Initiatives, who assist over 1,000 other private sector companies in achieving their carbon reduction goals.  

SBTs are one of many environmental strategies Network Rail have proposed in their 2020-2050 Environmental Sustainability Strategy, with the overall aim to reach net zero carbon emissions in line with government guidance by 2050.  [examples of other strategies?]

They also plan to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 46% by 2029 from a 2018 base year. [that’s a goal, not a strategy] .Additionally, they aim to reduce absolute Scope 3 indirect use-phase emissions by 28% by 2029 from a 2018 base year, reducing diesel emissions on the network in line with well-below 2 degrees.  [Does your reader understand Socpe 1/2/3? or do you need to remind him/her?]

“We will work with our supply chain so that by 2025 at least 75% of our suppliers, by emissions, will have set their own science-based targets.”  [who said that? is it necessary?]

However, what incentive is Network Rail providing for companies to adopt SBTs? “Where we are at the moment, SBT’s are more of a carrot [to encourage companies to set SBTs]”, Roger Maybury, Supplier Management Director at Network Rail confirmed at Rail Live last month. 

“Government procurement guidance PPN0621 that’s been given to us obliges us to check that you have a carbon reduction plan in place in order to win business from us – which is worth over £5 million. That’s coming in from September,” he continued. 

George Davies, Director of Sustainable Development at RSSB, also hosted the Rail Live talk alongside Maybury. “There’s probably a number of people who haven’t even heard of science-based targets, or think ‘Well what does that mean for the organisation that I am part of? I’m an SME, I’m a modest sized organisation’,” Davies said. “But the great news is, as Roger’s described, is help, there is guidance. So, this sort of initiative can really be accessed and acted upon.” 

How will these targets look for an SME?

Targets will cover the most relevant source of emissions across the value-chain. The timeframe of SBTs (5-15 years) will ensure accountability and drive short-term action, and can be expressed in metrics that are relevant for the sector and company.  

Beyond financial incentives, adopting SBTs could prove to be beneficial in numerous ways. Having a long-term sustainability business model will address stakeholder expectations, as well as anticipate potential government regulation and policy and market development. It could also increase competitiveness through reducing suppliers energy and emissions-related costs.

Network Rail’s ambitions signal a wider move towards sustainability in the rail industry. The Rail Live event, held in Warwickshire, saw sustainability be a central topic in talks by industry giants such as Network Rail and HS2 – a sign of change to come.

The impacts of business activities across the rail sector is one of the primary drivers of nature loss and climate change, according to the European Commission. Network Rail’s introduction of SBTs signal that the rail industry is starting to hold themselves accountable for a more sustainable future. 

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