In what is believed to be a UK first, a medieval charity has achieved Net Zero Carbon status for its routine bridge maintenance activities.
Following a 2020 pledge to slash its emissions, the Rochester Bridge Trust has exceeded its first target by reducing carbon production for its routine maintenance activities by more than 88%, with the remaining residual emissions offset by tree planting.
The steps taken by the Trust and Term Maintenance Contractor FM Conway have included changes to working practices, new modes of transport, more energy-efficient equipment and a switch to renewable power.
Sue Threader, Bridge Clerk (Chief Executive) of the Trust, said: “We are very pleased to have achieved our first milestone.
“When we set out our carbon reduction targets, we knew we had a big task ahead of us to reduce our outputs as much as possible. To have achieved Net Zero Carbon so soon for bridge maintenance has exceeded our expectations.
“We believe this makes us the first bridge owners to have achieved this and we hope it will inspire others to do the same. However our work is not yet done as we now turn our focus to further reducing our emissions in other areas.”
The achievement is in comparison to the base year of 2018, which is the last time ordinary figures are available because 2019-20 was impacted by the major refurbishment and the pandemic. In the base year, annual bridge maintenance activities generated 18.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which would require approximately 120 trees to be planted every year to offset the effects. The changes to working practices and equipment mean the annual carbon outputs have been reduced to 2.3 tonnes, requiring 15 trees per year to be planted to offset this impact.
Matt Smith, Director of Structures at FM Conway, added: “Bridge maintenance activities are the daily tasks that ensure the structures are kept safe, clean and tidy. These are jobs that must be carried out, but that doesn’t mean they have to cost the earth.
“We are pleased to work with the Trust to find solutions that reduce the carbon impact of our activities. In particular, by sourcing and trialling greener, more energy-efficient equipment and ways of working.”
The next target in the five-year plan is to reach Net Zero Carbon for the activities of the organisation’s own staff and trustees by March 2023, followed by further annual pledges.
The Trust has also planted a new woodland to offset the carbon generated by its recent refurbishment projects – to achieve carbon neutral status for those activities. Additional trees have been included to offset the small residual impacts of routine bridge maintenance.
For more information about the carbon pledges and to read about specific activities, visit: www.rbt.org.uk/carbon-action