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What role can the water industry play in tackling the climate crisis?

What role can the water industry play in tackling the climate crisis?

Credit: PA Images

Water UK

3 min read Partner content

After a year of record-breaking temperatures, storms and flash floods, “it has never been more urgent” to reach net zero emissions by 2030, says Water UK’s chief executive, Christine McGourty.

Speaking at the launch of Water UK’s industry-wide plan to deliver net zero operational emissions by 2030, Water UK’s chief executive, Christine McGourty, said that recent environmental stresses have “brought the challenge of climate change into sharp focus.”

Admitting that the industry has faced a challenging year in terms of “record-breaking temperatures, storms and flash floods,” which saw increased pressure on water supplies and the environment, McGourty said: “The challenge only gets harder every year we wait. The industry has made real progress in recent years but now we need to go further, faster.”

Also speaking at the event, Nigel Topping, the UK’s High-Level Climate Action Champion for COP26, highlighted the need for a united approach when tackling climate change and the water crisis.

Admitting that the Covid-19 pandemic had “exposed our vulnerabilities,” Topping went on to say that the situation is “dwarfed by the effects of climate change, water insecurity and environmental destruction.”

“The water crisis and the climate crisis are not two separate events, they are one and should be treated as one,” he continued.

“The smart management of water, wastewater and freshwater ecosystems offers a whole range of significant climate solutions that remain largely untapped, but such action makes environmental sustainability and resilience the lens through which we map out our recovery,” he explained.

Water UK’s Net Zero 2030 Routemap was launched via a virtual panel event and detailed Water UK’s 10-point plan to meet net zero emissions 20 years before the government’s target of 2050.

The sector Routemap is projected to save up to 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas, as well as lead to the planting of 11 million more trees and the restoration of 20,000 hectares of grassland and peatland.

Panellists at the event spoke of the need for a “blue recovery”, one that will play a big part of the UK’s future, achieved through “understanding the role water can play in solving some of the biggest issues we face.”

The water crisis and the climate crisis are not two separate events, they are one and should be treated as one

The nature-based solutions adopted by the Routemap were stressed as an “important alternative to “capital intensive infrastructure projects” while also “enhancing biodiversity.”

“This Routemap is a crucial step forward in setting out the industry’s vision for tackling climate change as we work towards a green and resilient recovery for society, the economy and the environment,” said McGourty.

The nature-based approach towards reaching net zero emissions was hailed by panel host Alastair Stewart as “one of the great significances” of the Routemap, highlighting nature as “our greatest single and most potent ally.”

“Climate change is front and centre of the agenda, and with a well thought through plan, detailed analysis and targets, and cooperation from key players, we can imagine what 2030 will look like,” he explained.

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said that the plan outlined actions which were in “strong alignment” with their own goals, which were to predominantly “build partnerships for nature’s recovery”.

“Our key aim is to deliver this new recovery network through putting all these different tools and partners together to deliver benefits such as carbon capture, water purity and the recovery of the country’s wildlife,” he explained.

“I have to congratulate the water industry in taking this step of leadership in setting out the plan for 2030”.

Find our more about the 2030 Roadmap here.