UK railway company Network Rail announced that it has set science-based climate targets, aiming to reduce emissions in line with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The company stated it is the first railway globally to have its targets have approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)’s most stringent category.

Network Rail Chief executive Andrew Haines said:

“Rail is already the cleanest and greenest mode of transporting large numbers of people and goods, but we’re committed to cutting our carbon footprint even further. That’s why we’ve set carbon reduction targets backed by science rather than simply ones we think are easy to achieve. We are the first railway in the world to set targets that will help limit global warming to 1.5 degrees and this shows our commitment to change.

“We’re on an important journey – to support the government’s target of being net-zero by 2050, to help the country build back better as we recover from the pandemic and to help passengers and freight users make the greenest choices they can.”

According to Network Rail, approximately two thirds of the railway’s emissions are generated by suppliers. In addition to initiatives targeting emissions in its own operations, the company has pledged to have 75% of its suppliers set science-based emission reduction targets as well.

Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s Safety, Technical and Engineering Director, said:

“Most of our carbon emissions come from our supply chain, so we need to give our suppliers confidence that we are serious about this and must make the changes needed to meet these challenging targets. Many of our suppliers are already making great strides to this end which we can learn from. Working with them to find creative engineering solutions and clever ways to reduce the energy we consume, for example, is key to delivering these targets.”

SBTi lists the company’s targets as follows:

“Network Rail commits to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 46% by FY2029 from a FY2018 base year. Network Rail also commits that 75% of its suppliers by emissions covering purchased goods & services and capital goods will have science-based targets by FY2025. In addition, Network Rail commits to reduce absolute scope 3 indirect use-phase emissions 28% by FY2029 from a FY2018 base year.”

SBTi was formed as a collaboration between CDP, World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), with the goal to establish science-based environmental target setting as a standard corporate practice. Achieving approval of targets by SBTi is a significant milestone for companies’ sustainability efforts.

Over 1,000 companies globally have pledged to align their decarbonization plans with the Paris Agreement by adopting science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, and slightly over 450 companies have had their targets approved by SBTi.

Cynthia Cummis, Director of Private Sector Climate Mitigation at World Resources Institute, one of the Science Based Targets initiative partners, said:

“We congratulate Network Rail for becoming the first railway company in the world to set a science-based target aligned with limiting warming to 1.5°C, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement. By taking ambitious climate action, Network Rail are playing their part in supporting the UK government’s target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”