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Developing guidance for consistency in assessing carbon emissions

1 June 2021

At the recent ADEPT / Future Highways Research Group Highways Innovation Conference, Dr Helen Bailey, Technical Research Director for FHRG and Managing Director of The Driven Company Associates Limited, spoke about the work being done to standardise the approach and provide guidance to local highway authorities in respect of the measurement of carbon emissions. Helen, who is working with Emma Pye (PYE Management Limited) outlines the background and the benefits of the project and talks about how it may be progressed in the future.

We are currently working with members of the FHRG, Proving Services and ADEPT to provide a guidance document that will deliver a consistent approach for local authorities in assessing their scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions. 

Although protocols and guides are available, the sector lacks a standard guidance document which allows authorities to benchmark and monitor their emissions allowing them to plan for, and tackle, net zero targets and the climate emergency many have already declared.

Carbon emissions are categorised into three scopes. This project will look at the first two. Scope 1 focuses on direct emissions from an organisation, or emissions that are under their control. Scope 2 requires indirect emissions to be monitored and includes emissions created through energy, such as electricity or heat. Scope 3 is more complex and describes all other indirect emissions from an organisation that they do not control – for example, commuting, water usage, materials, and the supply chain.

This is a unique opportunity to utilise our combined experience, together with that of the FHRG members, to produce a guide that will steer the sector to produce accurate and comparable carbon figures and therefore highlight best practice. This will enable members to learn from each other and help to achieve net zero. An accurate carbon figure is the first step to reducing emissions.

Emma and I were asked to develop guidance that is suitable for use by all administrative types across the sector and provide a level playing field through the application of a consistent approach. 

This project will tackle this, by looking at the key environmental impacts and emissions across the sector. The aim is to create a set of benchmarkable guidance documents so that an assessment framework can be developed and monitor the progress going forward to  allow better management of targets. Local authorities will have knowledge of other councils and compare performance against these targets. Once there is greater consistency, we hope councils will be able to look to each other and share good practice, thereby accelerating the journey to net zero across the sector as a whole.

The project has three objectives: firstly, to establish clear boundaries for activities to be included, secondly to understand and document different activities across the scopes, and finally to enable consistent measurement techniques i.e. meters vs bills.

We are working closely with ADEPT members to create the framework. This includes discussions, interviews and smaller peer group reviews with FHRG members. The key is collaboration, making sure we share our learnings with all the key partners.

Our ultimate goal is to publish a Compliance Assessment Toolkit for Scope 1 & 2. It will be rigorously tested, and peer reviewed by the FHRG for use by ADEPT members. We anticipate that the project will finish at the close of 2021. To support the guidance, a Scope 1 & 2 Compliance Assessment will be made available online for all ADEPT members. This will be delivered as part of the Value Analyser™ assessments framework.

How goods and services are procured by local authorities is another important element of the wider work undertaken by FHRG and Proving. We are keen to ensure the new assessment framework helps authorities establish and develop clear procurement guidelines allowing them to go to market with confidence in achieving net zero. 

At the moment councils go out to market with contract terms that vary hugely – some can be up to 21 years. This long timeline can give a lack of flexibility and affords little opportunity to change elements, such as carbon targets. This project is about how we fit the whole jigsaw together - how do we address the lack of flexibility to take into consideration new carbon targets, for example?

We know we need to be ambitious and forward thinking to drive this through – currently, we are laying the foundations by working on Scope 1 and Scope 2. 

Our next step will be then to incorporate Scope 3, which is a huge challenge as the infrastructure space that we are working within is extensive, with numerous products, processes and techniques to consider for both construction and maintenance – all of which have a huge impact upon carbon due to the high volume nature of our industry. 

By standardising how carbon emissions are reviewed by local authorities, we will be taking a significant step forward as it underpins assessment of not only our current carbon impacts but also our ability to plan for the future.