5 June, 2023 Net Zero

British Antarctic Survey (BAS), an institute of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), is one of the first public sector organisations to be recognised by the Carbon Trust for its steps towards net zero.

BAS as a component of NERC has been certified as ‘taking action’ under the Carbon Trust’s Route to Net Zero Standard.

The Route to Net Zero Standard is a robust and independent assessment of an organisation’s steps towards achieving net zero carbon emissions. It helps organisations measure and manage their emissions, inform carbon reduction strategies, and align targets for the future.

Nopi Exizidou, Net Zero Transition Lead at British Antarctic Survey said: “We see first-hand through our scientific research on climate change and operations in Antarctica how the environment is dramatically changing. We are taking action now to limit our emissions.

Our teams in Antarctica and at our Cambridge headquarters have been working hard to reach net zero as quickly as possible. There are a number of challenges in reducing emissions from our ship and aircraft, however we have a history of innovation that we can draw on to succeed.”

BAS alongside its parent body, UKRI-NERC, is committed to reach net zero by 2040 at the latest, 10 years or more ahead of the deadline set for the UK as a whole.

It is currently replacing old inefficient infrastructure in Antarctic research stations and at their Cambridge HQ with sustainable technology and more energy-efficient buildings.

Challenges ahead

BAS is implementing a wide range of carbon reduction measures. Solar panels on the roofs of the BAS Cambridge HQ are generating a significant proportion of the energy used on site.

Aerial photo of solar panels on roof of buildings at BAS Cambridge HQ
Solar panels on the roofs of buildings at BAS Cambridge HQ in 2021.

Marine gas oil fuels NERC’s research ships (including the RRS Sir David Attenborough operated by BAS) and is a large contributor of emissions. However, there are plans to trial more sustainable fuels and use different technology, such as remotely controlled and autonomous underwater vehicles.

There is a range of existing projects to reach zero emissions in Antarctica, including replacing old buildings with modern and energy-efficient infrastructure and using renewable energy at Rothera Research Station.

Over 300 solar photovoltaic panels were installed at Bird Island Research Station this season for a new solar and battery system to reduce carbon emissions and cut fuel use by 50% per year.

A train is parked on the side of a mountain
New solar panels installed at Bird Island Research Station. ©Mark Whiffin

Next steps for net zero

‘Taking action’ is the first of three tiers under the Carbon Trust certification. The next two tiers are ‘advancing’ and ‘leading’.

The Carbon Trust has made a set of recommendations for how NERC can move to the next level of certification, including improving understanding of NERC’s scope three footprint and the steps required to drive decarbonisation in this area.

The Net Zero carbon strategy for BAS aims to achieve net zero carbon by 2040 from their direct operations, including collaboration with industry, Antarctic operators, and policy makers on new innovations and technology to cut emissions.

BAS plans an ambitious programme of science using new technology over the next decade in line with net zero commitments, including survey aircraft, satellite remote sensing, autonomous observing platforms and airborne drones.