Greenhouse gas (GHG) management is an essential part of any
organisation’s sustainability and corporate responsibility agenda.
GHD partnered with CenSA on railways greenhouse
gas emissions measurement in the United Kingdom.
In December 2008, the United Kingdom (UK) made a upgraded its
commitment to reduce its national carbon dioxide emissions, by at
least 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, in comparison to
1990 levels. In anticipation of tough regulatory and other policy
drivers, the rail sector sought to better understand its
contribution to the national GHG footprint and the ways in which
this can be reduced.
While rail is seen by many as the low emissions way to travel
(comparing favourably against air and road on an emissions per
passenger kilometre basis), there is still plenty of room for
improvement. For its part, the UK Rail system comprises 15,795
route kilometres and in 2007/08 was used by a total of 49 billion
passengers, an increase of 41.2 percent compared to the 34.7
billion of a decade earlier.
In late 2008-early 2009, GHD, in partnership with the Centre for
Sustainability Accounting (CenSA), worked with the Rail Safety and
Standards Board (RSSB) and Northern Rail, a leading train operating
company, to calculate their GHG footprints. Footprinting is a
critical precursor to setting up any cost-effective, GHG management
program. But looking ‘within’ to identify which emissions an
organisation owns is only half the story. Supply chain emissions
need to be considered – these are emissions made by immediate
suppliers and their extended supply chains in the delivery of
products and services. The chief advantage of this approach is that
some of the most cost-effective reduction opportunities are to be
found in the supply chain.
Until now, supply chain emissions have been difficult to
measure, because of the sheer number of organisations and emission
sources involved. GHD and CenSA overcame this problem by employing
the latest technique developed by the University of Sydney and, in
the UK, CenSA at the University of York. The technique is based on
environmental input-output analysis, which uses financial data and
national economic and environmental statistics to model
whole-of-supply-chain emissions quickly and cost-effectively.
Because it involves using pre-existing data from financial
accounts, it eliminates any need to generate and collate new
GHD and CenSA combined this new technique with conventional
‘bottom-up’ methods focused at areas such as gas and electricity
consumption where primary data were readily available, in a
‘hybrid’ assessment, delivering the most advanced footprint
assessment method available today. Its advantages are that it is
cost-effective, incorporates the entire supply-chain, identifies
the most GHG-intensive activities, provides a powerful screening
assessment to direct future, more detailed studies, and can easily
be updated with data from other sources.
As a result, the organisations were able to get a clear and
complete picture of their footprints. The importance of some of the
emission sources (e.g. supply chain in relation to direct
emissions) was greater than first expected, proving the value of
incorporating the whole supply chain. Thanks to GHD and CenSA, the
two UK rail organisations are now able to incorporate a fuller
range of opportunities (notably those where the greatest reductions
can be made for the least cost) into their environmental
improvement and emissions reduction programs.