Cutting carbon can be complicated. There are so many interlinking elements to consider. Should we be thinking about the embodied carbon in the materials used? The carbon emitted over a road’s whole life? Or both? And how are decisions about the two linked?
Then there’s the issue of how carbon is calculated. There are various tools and standards for measuring carbon emissions linked to infrastructure, including in-house ones, with different organisations using different ones. And if someone says their product is cutting 50% carbon, what exactly are they comparing themselves to?
It was questions such as these that the authors of PAS 2080 Carbon Management in Infrastructure set out to answer. Published back in 2016, this publicly available standard (PAS) aims to help infrastructure owners and their supply chains cut carbon in a systematic way. It came after a report for the Treasury concluded that cutting carbon would also cut costs and boost the UK economy.
PAS 2080 does not set out how to calculate or measure carbon emissions. Instead, it takes the user through a carbon management process involving target setting, creating baselines, choosing a quantification methodology, setting up process and procedures for continual improvement and reporting. It explains how an asset owner or manager should take the lead and sets out the responsibilities of the various members of the supply chain, designers, constructors and suppliers.
During the first half of this year, PAS 2080 was reviewed and revised; the consultation on the amended version closed on 11 July with PAS 2080:2022 due to be published at the end of this year. Among the suggested changes are an expansion of scope to cover all the built environment, buildings as well as infrastructure, more on collaboration and an increased emphasis on a whole life carbon approach.
The PAS could eventually become a British Standard (BS) or an ISO – from the International Organisation for Standardisation. A PAS is a fast-tracked standard, privately sponsored and prepared under guidelines from the British Standards Institution (BSI). Around 30% of PASs go on to become ISOs after a few years of use, according to BSE.
As well as using PAS 2080, organisations can also be accredited to the standard. Contractor Skanska was one of the first to do this back in 2018. And HS2 gained accreditation in 2020, becoming one of the first clients to do so.
Broadly speaking, though, PAS 2080 has not been widely taken up. A study commissioned last year by the Transport Research Innovation Board (TRIB), HS2, Network Rail and the Infrastructure Industry Innovation Partnership (i3P) found that without clients insisting on its use, PAS 2080 was unlikely to be adopted. The perception among construction firms is that it adds to cost without adding to revenue.
The reason why i3P and others want to encourage the uptake of PAS 2080 is that they believe it will help the country transition to a lower carbon economy. There is also the idea that UK companies could become experts in the carbon management field and then export that expertise overseas. Perhaps the imminent arrival of net zero carbon deadlines will encourage more clients to start implementing the standard, along with their supply chains.
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