Environment Agency sets itself net-zero emissions target

Agency chief says staff are “under no illusion about the scale of the challenge”

Environment Agency staff. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA

The Environment Agency has said it will lead by example on climate change by cutting its carbon emissions to net zero by 2030.

The agency will reach the target through a combination of carbon-cutting and offsetting measures, it announced yesterday. It will aim to cut the emissions it generates and those generated in its supply chain by 45%, while supplementing its efforts with tree planting and other methods.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs body will also carry out further research to determine whether it is able to become an absolute-zero organisation, which generates no carbon emissions either directly or in its supply chain, by 2050.


To meet the goal, the regulator said in its announcement that it would need to make changes to how it carries out its work. Every part of the organisation will produce a carbon reduction plan, and the agency will also work with suppliers and other bodies to explore how they can reduce their carbon footprint, using technology to help them where needed.

Over the last 12 years the agency has cut its operational carbon emissions by 48%.

Hitting the target would go beyond the goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement, the Environment Agency said. It would also go further than the government’s commitment to make the UK a net-zero economy by 2050.

This summer, the government’s independent advisory panel the Committee on Climate Change called on government departments to adopt a net-zero carbon emissions policy and to improve coordination of anti-climate change measures.

The recommendation to adopt the policy "across all levels and departments of government”, was delivered in a report that called on government to demonstrate it was "serious" in its commitment to cutting net emissions to zero in the next 30 years.

Commenting on yesterday’s announcement, CCC chief executive Chris Stark said hitting government’s net-zero target “will require ambition from government, industry and individuals alike”.

“Bold steps are needed and the Environment Agency is demonstrating real leadership by making this important commitment,” he added.

Environment Agency chair Emma Howard Boyd said in a statement that staff were “under no illusion about the scale of the challenge” they had set themselves, but that urgent action was needed to protect the planet.

“Tackling the climate emergency is the biggest challenge facing humankind, and every day our organisation has to deal with its effects,” she said.

“Alongside working with communities to plan and adapt for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, we must also take action as an organisation to reduce our own contribution to this existential threat.”

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