The Importance Of Water In Reaching Net Zero
If the world is to prevent the worst impacts of climate change (more frequent and intense drought, heatwaves, heavy rainfall, warming oceans, rising sea levels and melting ice caps), it will be necessary to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
As it stands right now, the planet is already approximately 1.1 degree C warmer than in the late 19th century – and emissions are still on the rise.
This is why the historic Paris Agreement was established in December 2015 at the UN Climate Change Conference in the French capital, setting out long-term goals to help all countries significantly reduce emissions to limit temperature increases in this century to 2 degrees C, while pursuing efforts to limit it even further to 1.5 degrees C.
According to the UN, if global warming is to be limited to no more than 1.5 degrees, emissions will need to be slashed by 45 per cent by 2030 and net zero achieved by the year 2050.
Making the move to net zero presents a huge amount of challenges, however, and it will be necessary to enact serious and significant change in how the world operates, right across the board.
Transforming the energy sector represents one of the biggest opportunities where avoiding the worst impacts of climate change is concerned, with the move to renewable energy sources and replacing coal, gas and oil power one of the most effective ways of reducing carbon emissions.
However, it’s important not to leave water out of the debate when considering how best to go about achieving net zero and, as the World Economic Forum (WEF) asserts, these targets will simply never be reached if water-related emissions aren’t included in the conversation as well.
Water accounts for ten per cent of all global emissions and, as such, addressing this is vital for climate mitigation. It’s a central player for many industries, everything from food and drink production to fashion and insurance.
It’s also essential for the extraction and refining of fossil fuels, a practice that often takes place in water-scarce parts of the world, so decarbonising energy systems and moving towards renewable options will reduce the energy sector’s water footprint and free up resources for use elsewhere.
Gaining a deeper understanding of the water footprint of industry, no matter what industry it is, is required in order to understand the true value of the potable water we have available to us. This will help drive improvements in pricing and governance, putting water at the core of business strategy in order to facilitate climate-positive change across the entire supply chain.
As the WEF goes on to observe, the biggest opportunity for water is in climate adaptation, helping to make both communities and ecosystems more resilient.
By improving water systems and making them more robust, a positive feedback loop can be created that will ensure long-term development and growth for communities, even in the face of water-related disasters.
For example, agricultural land management could become more regenerative to allow for better water retention in the soil, while using less input from irrigation.
This would optimise how much freshwater is used for agriculture while protecting groundwater sources from chemical runoff and reducing industry-related emissions to ensure soil health for future harvests.
For urban environments, updating wastewater and storm management systems would see them better able to cope with sudden surges in water levels, helping to drive down the number of combined sewer overflow discharges that cause pollution.
Water use pathways can also be updated to be more circular in their approach, reducing the overall water footprint of cities and limiting how much untreated wastewater makes its way back into the natural environment.
The WEF article concluded: “We increasingly operate in silos, but these examples prove the intersection between our agriculture and food systems, energy, nature and water.
“A systems approach is the only way to address these issues simultaneously and ensure that future human intervention in natural ecosystems and climate patterns is positive for people and planet.”
How can businesses help deliver water security?
All industries will rely on water in some way or another, which means that there are plenty of opportunities for businesses of all kinds and of all shapes and sizes to reduce their water footprint and help to make the world more water secure.
Understanding where and how you use water is key to reducing your overall consumption and it is necessary to consider your entire supply chain, as well as your direct operations and wider basin health, when trying to become more water efficient.
Looking at the water basins you interact with that are likely to face water stress issues can help mitigate the problem, allowing you to bring in appropriate water measurement and reporting to help drive improvements.
One of the most immediate ways to make a significant reduction in your water footprint is to address the issue of water leaks. Part of the problem with leaks is that they often take place far below ground so they’re hard to detect or they’re so small that they’re barely noticeable.
You may not even know you have a leak until you start to see water damage somewhere or spot a random spike in your bills that could indicate there’s an issue.
A water audit can be carried out across your entire site to identify any weak and vulnerable areas, helping you to find potential leaks and implement the necessary repairs.
You can also track your usage over time so you can spot problems straightaway, fixing them as you go and reducing the amount of water you waste. If you’d like to find out more about how to go about this, get in touch with the SwitchWaterSupplier.com team today to see how we can help.