Gill Turner Lay, Director of People and Operations at UKCEH

We are committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Gill Turner Lay, Director for People & Operations at UKCEH, explains more…

At the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, we carry out science that helps countries and companies around the world to reach net zero. We recognise that our commitment to net zero needs to start with reducing our own emissions and so we are committing to achieving net zero in our own operations by 2040.

What is net zero?

Net zero means that the amount of greenhouse gases we put into the atmosphere is equal to or lower than the amount of greenhouse gases removed or absorbed. It can be achieved through a combination of eliminating or reducing emissions, and removal from the atmosphere such as in carbon sinks like peatland and woodland. 

Putting our research into practice

In the same way as our research helps others to understand the sources of emissions and how to reduce them, we also need to understand and reduce our own environmental footprint. 

We now have an ambitious set of environmental goals in place to help us do this. 

The goals focus on: 

  • reducing our reliance on fossil fuels at our buildings and monitoring sites
  • embedding environmental sustainability into our financial decision-making and procurement processes
  • minimising the environmental impacts from our business travel
  • and putting in place measures across all our sites to support biodiversity, enhance ecosystem services and prevent pollution.

Leadership for net zero

Each UKCEH director is a strategic champion for one of our environmental goals, and we have developed supporting action plans to help us achieve these. I’m the strategic champion for our goal to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and achieve Net Zero Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and associated Scope 3 emissions by 2050.

We know we have a long way to go and I’m delighted by the progress we’ve made so far. At the two largest sites we directly manage (Wallingford and Edinburgh), we have moved our electricity supplies to zero carbon fully UK generated renewable energy tariffs. We have also recently done this at our large Aber field site in north Wales, home to our solar domes facility. More sites will follow as contracts are renewed.

Identifying emissions reduction opportunities

We are working together to identify further reduction opportunities. This is a real challenge considering the extent of our national and international monitoring activities! The first step has been to undertake an extensive decarbonisation survey of our Edinburgh and Wallingford sites. We’re now looking at how we prioritise the recommendations from those reports which involve measures such as installing additional on-site renewables.

We’re making progress in other parts of the business too, including replacing much of our IT equipment with newer, more efficient models and ensuring that all our laboratories are implementing measures to reduce energy use and improve energy efficiency. 

We are a growing organisation and the demand for our science has never been higher. By having the procedures in place to report the carbon footprint of all our activities, and by engaging our staff with the importance of our net zero goals, I am confident that they remain achievable. 

Gill Turner Lay