Ministers have announced that HS2 trains will be powered by zero carbon energy ‘from day one of operation’ as part of ambitions to make the project net zero carbon from 2035.
While the headline target is likely to rely on carbon offsetting, the project's latest Net Zero Carbon Plan includes new targets such as ‘aiming for’ diesel-free construction sites by 2029, with the first one expected in 2022.
It also includes a pledge to reduce carbon emissions from steel and concrete by 50% by 2030 compared with 2021 levels, although this appears to depend on innovation that has yet to materialise.
HS2 CEO Mark Thurston said: ‘HS2 Ltd is completely committed to reducing our carbon emissions as we design, build and operate the new railway. We’ve ensured that tackling climate change is an essential feature of all areas of our work - in design, in early works, and throughout major construction, allowing the project to build towards net zero from 2035.
‘The new targets announced today demonstrate the significant role HS2 will play in addressing the climate challenge, by providing a low carbon, long-distance transport solution and leading the construction sector to drive down carbon emissions.’
HS2 Ltd said that from 2023 it will ‘reduce carbon emissions as much as possible and make those that cannot be eliminated net zero by using natural or technological methods, known as carbon offsetting.
‘This includes looking at ways to capture and store carbon emissions using nature-based interventions such as planting new trees to absorb carbon dioxide.’
It added that it will work towards being zero carbon from 2035 through a number of new targets. They include:
- working with supply chain partners and industry peers to set ambitious new science-based targets in 2022 to tackle carbon emission ‘hotspots’ year-on-year as HS2 is built
- investing in innovation and forming partnerships to speed up ways to cut emissions in HS2’s supply chain
- cutting emissions from sources HS2 owns or controls and indirect emissions from electricity production
- offsetting residual carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated as HS2 is built, maintained and operated from 2035.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates, said: ‘Every company should be doing what it can to reduce its contribution to the climate emergency. However, HS2’s zero carbon initiatives don’t, and can’t, make up for the destruction this project will cause to woodlands and our wider natural environment.
‘The priority for rail funding should be to improve existing services, particularly in the North, rather than making it a few minutes quicker for people to get to and from London.