Delve into the latest company news, product information, technical advice and more

What is Net Zero?

Net Zero is the process of cutting greenhouse emissions to as close to zero as possible. It is a globally adopted initiative. The proviso is that once the planet reaches a net zero state, the atmosphere, oceans, and forests absorb the remaining greenhouse emissions. However, we can also impact the emission levels by offsetting and carbon capture.

Why do we need to achieve Net Zero?

The frame of reference for temperature targets is the late 19th century. Currently, the Earth is 1.1°C warmer than it was in that time period, and emissions continue to rise. The aim behind the initiative is to avert the worst impacts of climate change and preserve a liveable planet. The temperature increase needs to be limited to a maximum of  1.5°C, which is perilously close to the current status. To maintain the current status, emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 and then reach net zero by 2050. However, transitioning to the target is one of the biggest challenges facing humankind. The global response culminated in the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015, which brought together 196 countries with the common aim of reducing emissions. Whilst the commitment is wholesale, the current national plans fall short of targets.

How to achieve it

The strategies to achieve net zero emissions require wholesale changes in the production and use of energy. Technologies do exist, however, they are not fully utilised as there is inevitably a trade-off with social and economic factors. They are broken down into 4 distinct categories:

  1. Generate electricity without emissions – Low-carbon energy sources and renewable sources such as wind, solar, nuclear, and water power can provide ‘clean’ energy. The generation of low-emission energy will also require advanced electricity storage.
  2. Electric-powered equipment and vehicles – One of the largest wholesale solutions available is replacing vehicles powered by fossil fuels with completely electric-powered vehicles. Large industry equipment is also powered fully by electricity.
  3. Use energy more efficiently – Along with switching to electric equipment, smart technologies detect when energy is needed and when it is not. Therefore, electricity use is optimised and waste is minimised.
  4. Remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – To offset emissions that are too costly or difficult to avoid, it is necessary to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it permanently. This can be done with technologies that directly capture CO2 from the air and trap it so it cannot re-enter the atmosphere. Plants and soils already remove COfrom the atmosphere, and certain land management practices can increase their capacity to absorb and store carbon. (National Academies)

What is the current state of Net Zero goals?

In short – not great! Despite the commitment to the Paris Agreement, only 20 parties have a net zero target in law. 49 parties have a net zero target in a policy document, and 19 more have a net zero target in political pledges. However, that leaves 123 parties with no formal document submitted about their commitment. On the other hand, the 93 countries that have communicated a net zero target do account for 78.7% of global GHG emissions. (Climate WatchThe current policies laid out point to a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century.

The UK government has set a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The progress towards this goal has been mixed, with some positive developments and significant challenges.

On the positive side, the UK has made significant progress decarbonizing its electricity generation sector. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power now contribute a growing share of the country’s electricity mix. In addition, the UK has implemented policies to improve energy efficiency in homes and buildings and promote the use of electric vehicles.

  • In 2021, renewable energy sources generated 45% of the UK’s electricity, a new record high. (Source: UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
  • As of September 2021, there were over 25,000 public charging connectors for electric vehicles in the UK. This is up from around 17,000 in 2020. (Source: Zap-Map)
  • In 2021, the UK government announced new policies aimed at reducing emissions from transportation, including a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, and increased funding for public transit and active travel infrastructure. (Source: UK government’s Department for Transport)
  • In 2022, the UK launched a new emissions trading scheme to replace its participation in the EU Emissions Trading System. The UK Emissions Trading Scheme covers more than 1,000 power plants, factories and airlines and is designed to help the UK meet its climate goals by putting a price on carbon emissions. (Source: UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)
  • Despite progress in some areas, the UK is currently not on track to meet its interim carbon budgets. These are stepping stones towards the net zero targets. In June 2021, the Climate Change Committee, an independent advisory body, recommended that the UK government take urgent action to close the gap. (Source: Climate Change Committee)

The solutions in detail

The main solutions to mitigating climate change are below. EWI Pro plays an integral part in the retrofit portion as we are involved with the ECO Plus and ECO4 schemes to aid in the large-scale retrofitting of the UK housing stock.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *