We've joined the UN’s Race to Zero campaign for climate change action

We have joined the UN’s Race to Zero campaign, adding our voice to a global call for industry to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 to minimise global warming.
We have signed up to the global alliance along with 13 Australian water utilities supported by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and those represented by Water UK, who have also pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.
Our head of sustainability Chris Thurston says climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing the water industry.
“Extreme weather events, like the drought and floods we’ve recently experienced in Auckland, will become increasingly common as our climate changes. We’re no longer talking about the future. It’s already happening and we need global, collective action to protect our planet.
“As a water and wastewater service provider, everything we do is linked to the natural environment and we have a duty of care to protect our environment now and for future generations. This is why we are making a public pledge to the world that we will become a net zero emissions company by 2050.”
We have three emissions reductions targets:
  • To achieve net zero emissions by 2050
  • To reduce operational emissions by 50% by 2030
  • To reduce emissions from construction by 40% by 2025.
“These targets – part of our climate change strategy – are in line with Te Tāruke-ā-Tāwhiri: Auckland’s Climate Plan and support keeping global warming within 1.5 degrees celsius,” Thurston says.
Image detailing Watercare's climate change strategy
“We’ve been measuring our emissions for about 10 years and first set the net zero target in 2016. However, there are still many more legs of this journey to go. Our mahi started with moving to electric vehicles and looking at energy efficiency and is now evolving so that our carbon footprint is considered in every decision we make.”
Initiatives to reduce emissions include:
  • Harvesting solar power at our sites, including the country’s first floating solar array at the Rosedale Wastewater Treatment Plant. Further solar opportunities are being investigated.
  • Using electric trucks to transport more than 66,000 tonnes of earth from Central Interceptor tunnelling sites, reducing project emissions by more than 30 tonnes.
  • Changing all pool fleet vehicles to electric vehicles.
“We now have a team dedicated to decarbonisation and over the next few months we are creating a comprehensive roadmap to put us on track for our 2030 target and beyond,” Thurston says. “It won’t be easy – these are seriously challenging targets – and to meet them we’ll need to challenge the way we have delivered our existing services and lean on others both in and outside the water industry. But it’s a challenge I’m really excited about.”
We will publish progress against these targets in our annual report and through group utility reporting by WSAA.
The Race to Zero is a United Nations-backed global campaign rallying businesses, cities, regions, financial and educational institutions to take immediate action to halve global emissions by 2030 and deliver a healthier, fairer zero carbon world. Auckland is one of the global cities that is a signatory to the campaign, through our C40 membership.
WSAA has brought together 14 water utilities in Australia and New Zealand to join this global campaign. Collectively they serve more than 18 million customers, have 354 water and wastewater treatment plants and 160,000 kms of pipelines.
The Conference of the Parties 26 (COP26), which starts today in Glasgow and runs through to November 12, will include a Water and Climate Pavilion for the first time to raise awareness of the crucial role water plays in climate action.