CLIMATE change has become a key issue for industry. And cleaner, greener and more cost effective ways of doing business has rocketed up the corporate agenda. For Northumbrian Water the topic is now firmly in the hotseat with the appointment of its first climate change champion – David Chapman.
David is leading the company’s strategy and action to tackle the causes of climate change and its impact.
And as climate change manager he will strive to make the company as efficient and climate-friendly as possible by cutting its carbon emissions, reducing the amount of energy used and collecting, collating and using weather data.
"The time has come when all of us have to start taking action on climate change," said David.
"If we don’t do something now it doesn’t look good for the future."
David has a company-wide role working with Northumbrian Water in the North East where the company delivers both drinking water and waste water treatment to 2.6 million customers and in Essex and Suffolk where the company supplies drinking water to 1.8 million customers.
He lives in Norwich and is a chartered civil engineer who studied at Leeds and Birmingham universities. He has wide experience of the water world having designed sea defence and flood protection works and been a member of the Storm Tide Warning Service monitoring and responding to sea and river flooding.
His works experience also includes sewage and water treatment, sewerage and drinking water distribution, investment delivery and asset management.
David is putting together plans to reduce Northumbrian Water’s carbon emissions.
And that involves work right across the business.
"We have five broad areas – drinking water and treatment, sewerage, sludge, transport and office and administration," he explained.
"We’re looking at all those areas to start to prioritise our actions."
Key areas for the company will be water, sewerage and sludge, as these account for 95% of the company’s carbon emissions.
But as well as setting up strategies, David says involving each and every member of staff will be key to success.
"It’s crucial we engage with people right across the business and change their way of thinking.
"It’s the same with the whole environmental issue.
"A few years ago only a few people would bother to recycle glass bottles.
Now we have bottle banks all over the place and huge numbers of people are recycling – it’s become habit.
"When it comes to climate change, education is so important – along with some form of change in social behaviour."
David believes the water industry is going to be at the front in terms of the effects of climate change.
"There are going to be changes in rainfall patterns, periods of drought and more intense rainfall, as well as sea level rises," he said.
"We have already seen more flooding in recent years and we have to understand and manage all these risks. Our customers can also play a big part by helping to reduce energy emissions by using water wisely and saving and not wasting it."
But whether it’s big changes or small – all are important to the climate change issue.
"Initiatives we introduce in to our offices or our transport network can all contribute," he added.
"And hopefully people will carry that over into their personal lives – it’s about all of us becoming more aware."
On a personal level David is himself already making changes to combat climate change. "I’ve recently changed my car and opted for a more efficient model, plus I’m very aware of switching off lights at home when they’re not needed," he said.
"I’m very lucky to have been asked to do this job and I’m very committed to the role."
The Government has pledged to cut carbon emissions in the UK by 60% by 2050 and by 26-32% by 2020.
"I’m now putting forward ideas and targets – but I’m confident we can keep pace with Government’s ambitions."
Environmental expert and Northumbrian Water board member Dr Simon Lyster has also welcomed David’s appointment. "Climate change is a very serious threat, and Northumbrian Water is committed to do all it can to address the threat by reducing its carbon footprint and adapting to deal with climate change," he said.
"The company’s aspiration is to move as far towards carbon neutrality in its operations as possible.
"This will not be easy – supplying water is a very energy intensive business – and will require a range of different actions over a period of time.
"David's appointment will ensure there is a senior executive working full-time on the issue, and we are all looking forward to working closely with him."