In order to limit global warming to 1.5C, in 2019 the UK government set their aims to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.
But what does this really mean?
What is Net Zero?
“Net zero” or carbon neutrality refers to achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and emissions taken out of the atmosphere.
This differs from a “gross-zero” target, which would seek to reduce emissions from all sources to zero. Instead net-zero allows for some residual emissions from certain sectors, with the goal that the balance of carbon emissions from the overall economy is zero.
How far are the UK from reaching this target?
While carbon emissions have been steadily falling since 1990, the path to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 will involve a steeper reduction in carbon emissions over the next 30 years. In 2018 emissions fell by 2.3%, but in order to reach net-zero emissions will on average need to fall by 15MtCO2 every year, which is the equivalent of 3% of the emissions in 2018.
How will we achieve Net Zero?
To achieve net zero we will need to make considerable changes across the UK in industry, lifestyle and transport.
The Committee on Climate Change have recommended these policies to help the UK reach its 2050 target:
- Ban on petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030
- Development of vehicle charging infrastructure
- Schemes to support cycling and walking
- Setting formal aviation targets.
- Increased funding and incentives to move away from fossil fuels
- Development of technology to capture carbon back from the atmosphere (R&D).
- Increased funding in renewable sources of energy.
- Increase the take up of low carbon farming practices.
- Increased tree planting.
- 20% cut in consumption of lamb and dairy
- Youth climate steering group
- Engagement with Citizens Assembly.
- Engagement plan to explore why and how people can make these improvements
- Use a climate cabinet to embed net zero policy across all levels and departments of government.
- Transparent public reporting.