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Carbon Reduction Code for the Built Environment Trial Case Study – Environment Agency

Katherine Ibbotson, Net Zero Carbon Infrastructure Programme Manager, EA



Environment Agency England manages the risk of flooding from main rivers, reservoirs, estuaries, and the sea. We take a strategic overview of others’ work to manage the risk of flooding from all sources. Part of the Environment Agency's role is to create better places for people and wildlife and support sustainable development. In October 2019, the organisation set itself the goal to become net-zero by 2030. By 2050 it aims to become an absolute carbon zero organisation. The Environment Agency plans to be at the forefront of tackling the climate change challenge. Understanding the global climate emergency, we are facing and the scale and pace of climate change, the Environment Agency recognised the need to change how it works and the impacts it has organisation. Advancing the Net Zero project with Cambridge University, sharing achievements and challenges with other client organisations is key to meet the climate emergency target.


Challenges in implementing the Code

The Environment Agency is already aligned with PAS 2080, improving carbon management leading to emissions reductions across the business. There were no particular challenges in implementing the Code, as we are already looking at the whole life cycle of the carbon used on projects, promoting carbon reduction against an agreed target and supporting a cultural change across the all value chain fostering innovation.

But we recognised that not all the business areas are at the same level of maturity, and some aspects that are embedded in business as usual in some areas still have to be implemented in others. In addition, we understood that there is still work to be done to improve our early decision-making, driving improvement based on need and carbon benefits rather than deteriorating asset contention.


Implementing the Code - Compromises and opportunities

At present the the Carbon Code has been applied against FCRM.  The Environment Agency is working with several external organisations to share best practices on our methodologies for carbon measurement and management. Some of the key working groups include the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) Carbon, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) and the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P). But the implementation of the Carbon Code could be an excellent opportunity to provide further engagement with other client organisations. 


Lessons learned

We recognised that there is still work to be done to measure and reduce carbon emissions during the life of existing assets and during decommissioning.  In addition to this, improvements are needed at the optioneering stage, as the assumption is still too often to build hard engineering. More catchment-based approaches in the combination of Natural Flood Management approaches are instead needed.


What worked and didn’t work

The Environment Agency is already aligned with PAS2080. For this reason, no challenges were found in applying the Code.


Next steps

Some projects and pilots have been identified to progress this further, e.g. Strategic Outline Case on carbon data for Maintenance activities and the Strategic Outline Case for decarbonisation of MEICA assets.

Some further improvement in Procurement and Assurance has started in line with the Carbon Reduction Code.


Additional information for the Environment Agency Case study.