ABP Commits to Net Zero by 2040, A Decade Ahead of the UK’s Legal Commitment

(Photo: The RMS Jurmala docks at the ABP Port Of Teignmouth. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

(Photo: The RMS Jurmala docks at the ABP Port Of Teignmouth. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

by | Mar 6, 2023

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(Photo: The RMS Jurmala docks at the ABP Port Of Teignmouth. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.) net zero

(Photo: The RMS Jurmala docks at the ABP Port Of Teignmouth. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.)

The UK’s leading ports group, Associated British Ports (ABP) launched a new sustainability strategy, which invests £2 billion in decarbonization and other major energy infrastructure projects. Notably, the strategy commits to net zero emissions by 2040, a full decade earlier than the UK Government’s call for the international shipping sector to reach absolute zero CO2 emissions by 2050.

“By taking proactive steps to cut emissions in a part of the economy that is complex to decarbonize, ABP is demonstrating true leadership and showing that the business community is ready to lead the UK economy to net zero,” said Nick Molho, Executive Director of the Aldersgate Group, a sustainable business organization. “The government must respond by showing equivalent leadership in the coming months through strengthening the UK’s net zero strategy.”

The plan, branded Ready for Tomorrow (RFT), focuses on five areas of action within ABP’s operations: net zero, air quality, biodiversity, waste, and water management. According to the report, each focus area includes action ideas from their employees.

This major network of 21 ports provides 119,000 jobs and processes around one-quarter of the UK’s maritime trade. It is a key player in supply chain strategy throughout UK corporations. Handling £150 billion of UK trade every year, the group contributes £7.5 billion to the national economy annually.

Already, the company decreased its absolute carbon footprint by 38% between 2014 and 2021. ABP did not track greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) until 2014.  The strategy document admits that the more difficult emissions to eliminate are still to come, as that progress primarily came from “low-hanging fruit” and heavy equipment is next on the list. Their customers are requesting more sustainable supply chain solutions, so investments in low-carbon equipment will be good for their business. So far, 17 out of ABP’s 21 ports have renewable energy generation projects too.

It is important to note that their commitment currently only applies to Scope 1 and 2 emissions. According to the report, they could not commit to reducing Scope 3 (indirect) emissions due to the lack of guidance for ports globally. Scope 3 emissions account for the majority of the overall carbon footprint for most companies, and the CDP estimates that Scope 3 emissions make up 75% of a company’s emissions on average. ABP’s head of strategy Max Harris did state that the company will invest in data collection on Scope 3, as well as collaborate with other organizations to scale emissions accounting methodologies.

ABP is investing in employee training programs to develop more sustainability expertise. In early February, the group launched recruitment to fill its Apprenticeship Programme to “keep Britain trading sustainably”. Apprenticeships are available across the IT, marine, engineering, pilotage, commercial, and business administration departments. In addition, ABP is the first ports group globally to act as a training provider for the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment’s (IEMA) courses.

“It’s crucial that we equip our workforces with the skills and training needed to embed environmental and sustainable practice across all job roles, in order to meet our net zero goals,” said Sarah Mukherjee MBE, CEO of IEMA. “It’s great to see ABP embracing their commitment to the clean energy transition.”

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