What is Net Zero?

Seemingly the new sustainability buzzword that has cropped up everywhere, what is ‘net zero’ and is it a realistic vision of the future?

In a nutshell, the phrase net zero tries to achieve the balance between the greenhouse gases produced into the atmosphere and those gases are taken out to keep the emissions we release into the atmosphere low.

This should not be confused with zero carbon which is very different. Zero carbon means that no carbon emissions are produced at all from products or services. Not only would zero carbon be very difficult to implement, but it would also be impossible to meet the deadline of 2050.

Net zero is an 80 percent reduction from the baseline level of 1990. The Climate Change Act of 2008 committed the UK to an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions relative to 1990 levels by 2050.

In the United Kingdom, we have already reached 57 percent of 1990 levels, owing largely to the decarbonisation of the power network, which has resulted from coal being phased out, gas is reduced, and renewables riding high.

Why is net zero important?

Facing a worldwide climate emergency, as a society, we need to change our lifestyles, and fast.

We have become reliant on convenience, which is reflected in the choices we make every day. For example, the packaging found on the food we consume is as quickly discarded as it is wrapped around the product, fuelling the crisis.

There are a few greenhouse gases, however, the gas providing the most danger to the planet is carbon dioxide. By cutting down on the levels of carbon dioxide in the air, we can help tackle the impacts of climate change.

The UK was one of the first major economies to pass legislation that sees the country committing to net zero emissions produced by the year 2050.

How can we fight climate change?

As mentioned before, it is all about trying to find the perfect balance between greenhouse gases being removed from the atmosphere and gases going to the atmosphere;

We can lower the emissions produced by finding more sustainable and greener industrial processes and cleaner power sources, as well as improving transport.

We could also capture carbon that has been created during industrial processes before it has been released into the atmosphere, and we can offset those emissions produced by way of planting more trees.

How much will be becoming net zero cost?

The answer is in the ballpark of 1 trillion pounds.

Such a large change in society to support rapid decarbonisation will unfortunately not be cheap.

However, the cost to society will be spread over a number of years, with the benefits outweighing the potential fiscal implications.