FirstGroup becomes first UK public transport operator to commit to net zero target

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FirstGroup has committed to transition its bus fleet to zero-carbon by 2035, and to cease to purchase any new diesel buses after December 2022. RICHARD SHARMAN

FirstGroup has become the first bus and rail operator in the UK to formally commit to setting an ‘ambitious science-based target’ to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier.

A science-based target (SBT) provides a clearly defined pathway for companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping prevent the worst impacts of climate change and ensuring sustainable business growth. An emissions target is considered ‘science-based’ if it is in line with the reductions needed to meet the global commitment under the Paris Agreement to limit climate warming to 1.5°C by 2050, thereby mitigating the worst impacts of climate change. In the long term, a shift to zero emissions public transport and active travel – moving people out of cars and planes – is vital to achieving this global goal.

FirstGroup’s final and interim targets will be verified by the Science Based Targets initiative and published, alongside the first year’s progress, over the coming financial year.

Alongside the SBT commitment, FirstGroup has also become the first public transport operator in the UK to sign the UN’s Business Ambition for 1.5 pledge which calls on businesses to set science-based targets to achieve net zero emissions.

FirstGroup said that the move to commit to an SBT reinforces that it is setting the pace in the UK bus and rail sector in the drive to achieve net zero. It follows on the heels of other commitments on sustainability, including:

  • Investment in only zero-emission vehicles from December 2022, with a 100% zero-emission fleet by 2035;
  • Support for the UK Government’s challenge to take all diesel-only trains out of service by 2040;
  • Signing up to become an official Supporter of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD);
  • Support for continued electrification of the UK rail network, with hydrogen, battery-electric and hybrid trains playing a significant role where electrification is not possible.

Commenting, FirstGroup Chief Executive Matthew Gregory said: “FirstGroup is ready to play its part in accelerating the transition to a zero-carbon world. We are proud to be the first UK public transport operator to sign-up to ambitious science-based targets to achieve net zero emissions. The vital role of public transport has never been clearer in helping to address the challenges of climate change, and we are committed to helping deliver a more sustainable future for the communities we serve.”

FirstGroup‘s strategic framework for sustainability, Mobility Beyond Today, sets out the company’s ambition to be the partner of choice for innovative and sustainable transport for a zero-carbon future. The Group’s leadership in this area has already been recognised through inclusion in this year’s Clean200 list, meaning that FirstGroup is one of the cleanest 200 companies worldwide; and as the only UK transport operator in S&P’s Sustainability Yearbook.