Net zero or carbon neutrality refers to achieving net zero CO2 by balancing emissions with carbon offsetting. This narrative is linked to industry, specifically for processes associated with transportation, energy production and agricultural processes.
What is Net Zero?
Net zero strives to create a balance of carbon dioxide emissions by reducing carbon and offsetting carbon. This process of reducing greenhouse gases such as CO2, makes up for generated emissions from other processes. If the total gasses emitted is equal to the total avoided then the net carbon emissions are considered to be neutral, or net zero.
The key objective is to achieve a low-carbon economy by utilising alternative, renewable energy sources. This requires a shift away from fossil fuel based energy production and exploiting hydro, wind, geothermal, and future fusion and fission nuclear energy. Note that, renewable energy still produces a quantity of carbon emissions but this is considered negligible. Carbon projects are often used to reduce emissions, and carbon dioxide can be completely prevented from entering the atmosphere. An example of this is referred to as carbon scrubbing.
A carbon footprint also includes other greenhouse gases and climate neutral describes eliminating all greenhouse gases. Net zero is the social and economical commitment to global decarbonisation, including indirect emissions, linked directly to government agreement targets.
The Ten Point Plan for a green revolution in the UK
The following is a re-written summary of the UK 10 point plan (please note the original paper and full resources can be found here): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-ten-point-plan-for-a-green-industrial-revolution/title#contents)
1 Offshore wind
Wind is a crucial source of renewable energy. By 2030 the UK plan to quadruple offshore capacity. The UK generates more electricity from offshore wind than any other country. By 2030, UKGOV aim to produce 40GW from offshore wind, including future investment of £160 million into modern ports and manufacturing infrastructure, providing high quality employment in coastal regions. The Offshore Transmission Network Review will drive plans for smart systems, introducing competition in onshore networks in the upcoming Energy White Paper.
- potential support for 60,000 jobs by 2030
- approximately leverage of £20 billion of private investment by 2030
- savings of 21 MtCO2e between 2023 and 2032, or 5% of 2018 UK emissions
2 Low carbon hydrogen
Hydrogen could provide an alternative clean source of fuel for UK homes, transport and industry. The UK already has world-leading electrolyser companies, and unrivalled carbon capture and storage sites. An industrial collaboration aims for the UK to develop 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030.
Producing low carbon hydrogen at scale will be made possible by carbon capture and storage infrastructure, building resilient supply chains, support jobs and putting UK companies at the forefront of a growing global market, innovating across industrial processes, heat, power, shipping and trucking and accelerating towards net zero.
- potential support for up to 8,000 jobs by 2030
- potentially £4 billion of private investment in the period up to 2030
- savings of 41 MtCO2e between 2023 and 2032, or 9% of 2018 UK emissions
3 Nuclear power
Nuclear power provides a reliable source of low-carbon electricity. UKGOV are continuing with large-scale nuclear, whilst also looking at Small Modular Reactors and Advanced Modular Reactors.
£170 million is committed to a research and development programme on Advanced Modular Reactors. These reactors could unlock efficient production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels. The aim is to build a demonstrator by the early 2030s to prove the potential of this technology.
- a large-scale nuclear power plant will support a peak of around 10,000 jobs during construction
- government support could unlock private investment, up to £300 million, for development of small modular reactors
4 Zero emission vehicles
Zero emission vehicles can potentially create jobs, strengthen British industry and meet target emissions. A support package of £2.8 billion demonstrates a commitment to future British car manufacturing in the West Midlands, Wales and the North. The UK is a leading a manufacturer of Electric Vehicles e.g. The Nissan Leaf was the third highest selling EV in Europe in 2019. A commitment of up to £1 billion will support electrification and the corresponding supply chains, including developing Gigafactories. A single factory could employ 2,000 people in highly skilled jobs.
£1.3 billion will be rolled out to facilitate the creation of a charging infrastructure, targeting support on rapid charge points on motorways and major roads. Additionally, £20 million will support freight trials, utilising hydrogen powered and other zero emission lorries, to support industry to develop cost-effective, zero-emission HGVs in the UK.
- potential to support 40,000 new jobs in 2030
- leverage for £3 billion of private investment by 2026
- savings of around 5 MtCO2e to 2032 and 300 MtCO2e to 2050
5 Public transport and cycling
A clear push to transition to a more active and sustainable transport system by investing in rail and bus services. There will be significant funding of zero-emission buses and creation of more cycle lanes. £4.2 billion will be invested in city public transport and £5 billion on buses, cycling and walking. The National Bus Strategy will fund more frequent and cheaper Superbus networks.
Rail routes around cities, including Manchester and Birmingham will be invested in. The Midlands Rail Hub scheme in Birmingham will be completed and improvements across Manchester and Leeds, alongside Northern Powerhouse Rail to improve east-west links across the Pennines.
- potential support up to 3,000 jobs by 2025
- Investment of £5 billion in buses, cycling and walking
- savings of around 2 MtCO2e from green buses, cycling and walking between 2023 and 2032
6 Jet zero and green ships
The UK will lead the research into sustainable aviation fuels, to develop zero-emission aircraft and further develop the infrastructure of the future of airports and seaports.
The Jet Zero Council is a partnership to develop new technologies to help push the strategy to reach net zero aviation. £15 million is being invested to develop FlyZero, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute, researching strategic, technical and commercial issues in designing and developing zero-emission aircraft that could enter service in 2030. We will establish a SAF clearing house, to enable the UK to certify new fuels.
UKGOV will invest £20 million into the Clean Maritime Demonstration Programme.
- potentially support up to 5,200 jobs supported by a domestic SAF industry
- savings of 1 MtCO2e by 2032 from clean maritime and nearly 15 MtCO2e by 2050 from SAF
7 Green buildings
UKGOV will be supporting 50,000 jobs and building new supply chains and factories in the UK, to support initiatives for homes, schools and communities. Future and existing buildings will be more energy efficient, moving away from fossil fuel boilers. Action on buildings can rapidly support jobs, around 50,000 by 2030, an opportunity to lead the growing UK heat pump manufacturing base and expand supply chains for building efficiency.
A target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028, creating a market led incentive framework to drive growth, and bring forward regulations to support this in off gas grid properties.
A reduction in emissions in schools, hospitals and public buildings by further funding for Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme.
- potential to support around 50,000 jobs in 2030
- leverage £11 billion of private investment in the 2020s
- savings of 71 MtCO2e between 2023 and 2032, or 16% of 2018 UK emissions
8 Carbon capture, usage and storage
Carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) will capture the carbon we continue to emit. The aim is to capture 10Mt of carbon dioxide a year by 2030. CCUS technology captures carbon dioxide from power generation, low carbon hydrogen production and industrial processes, storing it deep underground where it cannot enter the atmosphere. The UK has an unrivalled asset – our North Sea, that can be used to store captured carbon under the seabed.
CCUS will be created in 2 industrial clusters by mid 2020s, and aim for 4 of these sites by 2030, capturing up to 10 Mt of carbon dioxide per year. Developed alongside hydrogen, we can create these transformative ‘SuperPlaces’ in areas of the North East, the Humber, North West and in Scotland and Wales.
- potential support for around 50,000 jobs by 2030
- up to £1 billion of public investment by 2025
- savings of around 40 MtCO2e between 2023 and 2032, or 9% of 2018 UK emissions
9 Protecting the environment
The natural environment is one of the most important and effective solutions we have for capturing and sequestering carbon long-term. We will safeguard our cherished landscapes, restore habitats for wildlife in order to combat biodiversity loss and adapt to climate change, all whilst creating green jobs.
Green jobs will be created with a £40 million second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund. This fund will help create and retain thousands of jobs to work on nature conservation and restoration projects across England helping to improve biodiversity.
UKGOV will invest £5.2 billion in a 6 year programme for flood and coastal defences including new innovative approaches to work with the power of nature to not only reduce flood risk, but deliver benefits for the environment, nature and communities.
- potential support of up to 20,000 jobs from improving flood defences by 2027
- up to £5.2 billion in investment for flood defences
- climate and biodiversity benefits from protecting our national landscapes
10 Green finance and innovation
Developing new sources of finance are fundamental for developing green technologies for net zero. We have committed to raising total R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.
To accelerate the commercialisation of innovative low-carbon technologies, systems and processes in the power, buildings, and industrial sectors, £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio will be pledged. The portfolio will focus on 10 priority areas that correspond with this Ten Point Plan, including:
- floating offshore wind
- nuclear advanced modular reactors
- energy storage and flexibility
- direct air capture and advanced CCUS
- industrial fuel switching
- disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence for energy
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsetting extinguishes GHG emissions by funding projects which cause the equivalent reduction of GHG emissions elsewhere, such as tree planting. Offsetting can be done by supporting a project, or buying carbon offsets or carbon credits.
In 2015, the UNFCCC, following the mandate of the CDM Executive board, launched a dedicated website where companies and also private individuals are able to offset their footprint (https://offset.climateneutralnow.org/) with the aim of everyone promoting sustainability.
What are greenhouse gas emissions?
The Climate Change Act listed six greenhouse gases, consisting of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride. CO2 is produced by burning fossil fuels, the sources for the other greenhouse gasses include industrial processes and waste management. These total approximately 19% of all UK emissions (figures from 2018).
What’s the difference between gross zero and net zero?
Net zero aims to achieve a balance between the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced and the amount removed. The methods to achieving this are two fold, by reducing existing emissions and actively removing greenhouse gases. However, gross-zero is literally driving emissions to nothing. Thus, net-zero accepts some emissions but these should be offset. At the point carbon emissions produced are cancelled out by the amount removed, the UK will be a net-zero country.
What are direct and indirect carbon emissions?
Direct emissions include pollution from manufacturing, company vehicles and reimbursed travel, livestock and any source directly controlled. Indirect emissions are emissions that result from the use or purchase of a product. For example, the direct emissions of an airline are all the jet fuel that is burned, while the indirect emissions include manufacture and disposal of airplanes, all the electricity used to operate HQ, and the daily emissions from employee travel to and from work.
Decarbonisation – climate neutral commercial commitments
The Climate Neutral Network was founded by Sue Hall and aimed at influencing companies to become more climate neutral with cost benefits as well as demonstrating proactive environmentally sustainability. It progressed with support from institutions like the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Rocky Mountain Institute, Conservation International, and the World Resources Institute. In 2020, there are multi global companies that have progressed independent Carbon and Climate Neutral certifications.
Climate Neutral Certification has tough targets, applying to a rigorous review process and proving the attainment of absolute net zero. Shaklee Corporation became the first officially certified company in 2000. This was achieved through investments in, and offset activities, including tree-planting, use of solar energy, methane capture in abandoned mines and its manufacturing processes.
Salt Spring Coffee became carbon neutral by lowering emissions through reducing long-range trucking and using bio-diesel fuel. Live Earth says that its seven concerts held on 7 July 2007 were the largest carbon neutral public event in history. The Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were the first carbon neutral Games in history through a large partnership with the carbon offset provider, Offsetters.
Advantages of living in Green Energy (zero energy home)
1 Sustainable living and a contribution to climate change
The design, techniques, and technologies that go into a zero energy home all result in net zero carbon emissions.
2 Reduced lifetime cost of ownership
Minimised energy bills means lower lifetime costs.
3 Clean air
Airtight wall construction mean zero energy homes incorporate energy efficient advanced ventilation, providing pre-heated or pre-cooled fresh and filtered air.
4 Look forwards
Contributing to a better future for our world. Be on the cutting-edge of home design, technology and environmental sustainability.
5 Be comfortable
A big advantage of an energy efficient home is its quiet, contemporary systems for heating and cooling.
6 Immunity to global energy pricing
The cost of energy will always increase, however energy efficient homes generate all the energy locally.
7 Clean energy source
Energy is created from clean, renewable energy from the solar panels, wind, water or alternative fuel sources.
8 Low maintenance home
Zero energy homes are low maintenance as there is less moisture and the filtered air means less dust and therefore easier cleaning.
9 Less water wastage
Highly efficient dishwashers, washing machines and toilets and are equipped with controls on faucets and showers to save on water usage.
10 Instant hot water
By using an energy saving circulating hot water system, most zero energy homes are designed to conserve hot water.
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