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Avoiding turmoil. Achieving targets. Attempting NetZero: Perspectives from the Water Sector

Lookup NU author(s): Anna Christy, Professor Oliver Heidrich, Professor Marwa ElnahassORCiD, Professor Jaime Amezaga



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by The International Society of Industrial Ecology, 2023.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The last decade is evidence that ‘business as usual’ means high likelihoods of global temperatures being between 4-5 ºC, above pre-industrial levels by 2100 (Hausfather and Peters, 2020). Now, central and local governments as well as businesses worldwide, are joining the race to NetZero. However, participation in this race has quickly become a necessity not only from a climate action perspective, but also to maintain business reputation, by supplying for consumer demands and meeting regulatory targets. Nevertheless, achieving business targets and attaining a stamp to signify carbon NetZero may not necessarily mean avoiding turmoil. The English Water sector has been a leader in the race to NetZero, being the world’s first to make a sector-wide NetZero commitment (Walker et al., 2021). To support this, water companies in England and Wales use a heavily regulated and annually revised Carbon Accounting Workbook since 2008. Since carbon accounting and reporting has shown to be a catalyst for effective climate action, improving carbon accounting tools can provide tangible evidence to show whether Net Zero is achievable (or not) (Bui and Fowler, 2019). Therefore, using this sector as a case study, this research has explored 95 articles on carbon accounting and reporting methods using a well-recognised literature review methodology, the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic review and Meta-Analyses protocol (Moher et al., 2015). We find the current literature presents drastic variations between the international agreements, national legislations, regulations and standards surrounding carbon accounting, meaning they communicate differing methods of best practise. We identify key limitations such as poorly defined best practice trickling down to business-level, through our collaboration with Northumbrian Water Limited (NWL) and propose a new carbon accounting framework. A novel aspect of this study is that it provides a unique insight into the English Water sector’s carbon accounting tool and is the first study to incorporate reflections and real business cases from industry collaborators like NWL, who stands as the main provider of water service provider of the Northeast of England. This research offers key policy implications and recommendations for various sets of stakeholders including regulators, investors and practitioners, for the English Water sector and beyond, to help establish standardised and consistent best practices for carbon accounting. REFERENCESBui, B. and Fowler, C.J. (2019). Strategic Responses to Changing Climate Change Policies: The Role Played by Carbon Accounting. Australian Accounting Review. doi:10.1111/auar.12213. Hausfather, Z. and Peters, G.P. (2020) 'Emissions–the ‘business as usual’ story is misleading'. Nature Publishing Group. Moher, D., et al., (2015) 'Preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P) 2015 statement', Systematic Reviews, 4(1), p. 1. Walker, N.L. et al., (2021) 'Aligning efficiency benchmarking with sustainable outcomes in the United Kingdom water sector', Journal of Environmental Management, 287, p. 112317.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Christy A, Heidrich O, Elnahass M, Amezaga J, Browne A, Moore A

Editor(s): Klejn and Fishman

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: The 11th International Conference on Industrial Ecology

Year of Conference: 2023

Print publication date: 05/07/2023

Online publication date: 03/07/2023

Acceptance date: 22/03/2023

Date deposited: 14/11/2023

Publisher: The International Society of Industrial Ecology



ePrints DOI: 10.57711/e2g6-vz69